Solid Phase Extraction And The Orange Bavarian Cream Connection

Doughnuts probably come into mind from the first mention of Bavarian cream. Try to go to doughnut stores (such as Krispy Kreme, Dunkin’ Donuts, Tim Horton’s) and purchase one of each kind of their custard cream-filled doughnuts (i.e. Boston cream, Long Johns, etc.) including the Bavarian cream. Chances are you will conclude that the members of this doughnut family only vary according to the type of exterior frosting because their fillings have the identical decadently sweet taste and oozingly creamy texture to the confectionary sugar-dusted Bavarian cream doughnut. So what is a Bavarian cream then?

Bavarois or Bavarian cream in English is a cold unmolded custard cream or crème anglaise that has been thickened with cornstarch and gelatin. Unfortunately, the term has become a misnomer and thus, is misused nowadays in the American kitchen. Authentic bavarian creams are less fluid because their gelatin to custard ratios are higher than that of the doughnut filling. At a semi-solid state under cold temperatures, the hydrolyzed collagen fragments in the gelatin increase the viscosity and the rigidity of the custard. Hence, try piping a true Bavarian cream into a warm empty doughnut. You will probably feel either a resistance in the flow of the Bavarian cream or no flow at all.

Since Bavarian creams contain gelatin, it is also easy to mistake them as mousse in the culinary context. Actually, the “mousse” layers in cakes are Bavarian creams because a true mousse does not have any gelatin. This dessert (bavarois) is not to be confused with creme bavaroise (or simply bavaroise) either. Although both words literally translate to Bavarian cream, the former was introduced in Germany by a French chef who was working in Bavaria (Larousse Gastronomique 1977). The latter is a hot crème anglaise and tea beverage that was invented in France to appease the demands of visiting Bavarian princes (Larousse Gastronomique, 1977). If the Bavarian cream mold is hexagonal in shape, the nationality changes to Russian and becomes a Moscovite (Larousse Gastronomique, 1977).

Much like ice cream, Bavarian cream can come in different flavors. The repertoire includes chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, mocha/coffee, almond, raspberry, apricot, peach, pear, pistachio, applesauce, champagne, lemon and cloves (a.k.a. perfect love), hazelnut, banana, orange, chestnut and even roses. For this blog entry, I will focus on Orange Bavarian Cream (from Mastering The Art of French Cooking) because one of its steps has a scientific aspect that is not found in other flavors – extraction of the orange flavor using sugar. The procedure may sound bizarrely sophisticated but it is simple and intelligent by design.

While laboratory techniques taught in organic chemistry may prove useful, obtaining orange oil/flavor through steam distillation or solvent infusion (soaking) of the orange rind/peel are both unreasonable and impossible to perform inside an ordinary kitchen for safety and toxicity reasons. Liquid nitrogen can be used but this method demands high costs and accessibility issues – pretty impractical for isolation of orange oil at home. Dry ice will work as a cheaper substitute but this requires high pressure and high temperature such as being done in a pressure cooker and there is the potential of the oil imparting a metallic flavor and taste. Decoction or boiling the orange peel in milk is a feasible method but the loss of orange flavor through vaporization from boiling cannot be controlled.

I was impressed with Julia’s instruction of rubbing the orange peel with sugar until the sugar is “impregnated with orange oil”. For the first time, I get to perform a kitchen method that employs solid phase extraction of an essential oil or flavor. (Well ok, Julia said preferred rubbing with sugar lumps, followed by grating the orange peel into the mashed sugar. I modified her instruction by using teaspoons of granulated sugar out of practical purposes. However, you will be able to skip the grating step.) By taking place under room temperature, sugar scrubbing is a suitable method for the extraction of the flavor in the kitchen. What is also fascinating is that I searched the Web of Science and I did not find any significant search hits on a purely solid sucrose being a solvent for extraction. (Note: I might have made a mistake in my search parameters. If I do, feel free to point it out.)

The photo above shows you the difference between orange peels before (left) and after (right) being scrubbed with sugar. Pardon my photography skills with an iPhone but you may notice yellow regions on the right orange peel. Before rubbing with sugar, the peel does not only have the orange color but the surface also feels wrinkled. When the oil is transferred into the sugar, the surface of the peel loses the orange color and thins out to a smoother layer. This is somewhat similar to skin exfoliation. The white sugar, on the other hand, will turn yellow (from the carotene of the orange peel), smell citrus (from the limonene found in oranges) and appear syrupy.

So how does this state-of-the-art method work? I suspect a domino effect of sugar-scrubbing. Rubbing introduces friction into the orange peel, the friction produces heat and the cells burst (cell lysis) from the heat to release the oil. Another possible reason behind this extraction is the accumulation of sugar in the orange peel causing the cell lysis. (Of course, I could be wrong with my speculations that these guesses have to be proven and tested.)

After all this science and linguistic talk, you are probably hungry and curious on how my Orange Bavarian Cream turned out. Though the dessert looked jiggly, the dessert was decadently creamy and smooth. Once I had a sample inside my mouth, I felt the softness that the custard was melting inside my mouth. The fluffiness of the custard made the dining experience felt like eating a cloud. The flavor was not overpowering to the sweet taste of the custard even with the combination of the orange juice, orange liqueur and orange oil. I died and went to heaven from having this bavarois and I can’t wait to do it all over again.

Orange Bavarian Cream (Taken from “Mastering The Art Of French Cooking”)

Orange Flavoring
2 large brightly colored oranges
2 large sugar lumps (2-3 teaspoons of granulated sugar)
1 1/2 tablespoons gelatin powder

Custard Sauce
7 egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups boiling milk

Egg Whites
5 egg whites
1 pinch of salt
1 tablesppon granulated sugar
Ice bath

Orange Flavored Whipped Cream
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons orange liqueur

Garnish (optional)
Peeled orange segments

1. Wash and dry the oranges. Rub the sugar over the skin of the orange. If lumps of sugar are being used, mash the sugar lumps and zest the orange peel into the sugar. If granulated sugar is being used, the oil will definitely get into your hands. To solve this problem, scrape the oil from your hands with a spatula.
2. Squeeze the orange juice and sprinkle gelatin over the orange juice.
3. Beat the egg yolks into the orange flavored sugar. Gradually add the granulated sugar while beating until the mixture is pale yellow. Beat in the cornstarch.
4. Pour the milk into the beaten egg yolk mixture in a thin stream of droplets.
5. Return the resulting custard sauce into the saucepan. Thicken the mixture over moderate heat. Make sure to stir with a spoon or a spatula. (Tip: To find out that the custard is thick, coat the spoon or spatula with the custard. If you run your finger on the custard sauce and the coating does not fill the line that you made, then the custard sauce is thick.) Do not overheat or overcook otherwise, the egg yolks will curdle and will separate from the milk.
5. Dissolve the orange juice-gelatin mixture into the custard sauce immediately after removing the saucepan from the heat. Pour into a mixing bowl.
6. Beat the egg whites, salt and sugar until stiff peaks are formed. Fold the egg whites into the cooling custard.
7. Transfer the bowl to the ice bath. Fold the mixture frequently to prevent separation of the custard from the egg whites. When the mixture is cold, set aside.
8. Place a mixing bowl containing the whipped cream under ice bath. Beat the cream until volume doubles.
9. Fold the cream and orange liqueur into the custard.
10. Transfer the entire Bavarian cream into mold. Cover with wax paper and chill the mold for 3-4 hours or overnight.
11. To unmold, dip the container into hot water for one second. Run a long thin knife around the edges of the cream. Reverse on the serving platter.
12. Garnish with orange segments.

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Travel PhooD: Going Greek

So it’s been a while since any of us have checked in and since I have to finish a talk for a conference next week, it’s naturally the perfect time to post about my adventures in Greece.  I was there in April this year with a friend, travelling from Athens to Naxos, Santorini, and Crete, before returning to Athens.  Expectations were relatively high to begin with – I love Mediterranean food (well, all food in general) – and we were travelling over Easter, so we were off, with open minds and empty stomachs…

Our flight landed at 2am and we had a very interesting, stray-dog laden walk to the hostel.  Not much on the food front on the first night, but the orange trees lining the streets gave off the most incredible scent.  Alas, the oranges were not for eating but rather to throw at the police…

Our tour guide, whose name now escapes me – Yannis? – let us have lunch at Monastiraki.  Yes, it’s very touristy, but we were hot, hungry, and short on time.  We both had a souvlaki pita at Thanassis and I’d have to say, in retrospect, it was probably one of the best things I ate in Greece.  I had some pretty amazing food but I can still remember the juicy texture of the souvlaki after 4 months.  YUM.  Hands down, best investment of 2€ the whole day.  We couldn’t get enough of it, so we went back for dinner and had moussaka and a large Greek salad with pita and tzatziki.  Everything was fresh and fantastic, and the salad had the most generous piece of cheese I’ve ever seen on any salad.

Two days later, we boarded a late afternoon ferry for the island of Naxos.  I had pretty low expectations, I must admit – I’d never heard of it.  Now that I’m wiser, I can highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend that you visit!  What an amazing place!  We arrived shortly before midnight and people running off the ferry and whisked away into cars headed to (orthodox) Easter midnight mass.  Firecrackers everywhere!  Our driver from A1 Soula Hotel dropped us off at his church (so nice of him!) so we got to watch the festivities for a bit.  The next day was Easter Sunday, so I woke up with absolute determination that I was going to have roasted lamb for dinner.

We woke up bright and early on Easter Sunday and took a walk along the St. George Beach and in town.  Somewhere along the way, we ran into the lovely Sunni, whom we’d met the night before because we were picked up at the same time from the ferry.  After a full-day photo tour of the island, we sat down for coffee at one of the cafes along the harbor and indulged in some dessert – kadaifi, moist orange cake, and a cream horn. We later met Jeff (?) from the States and the four of us went to dinner together.  Our server was a bit standoffish, but the owner/promoter was really charming and I’d promised him earlier that we’d go back and try his roasted lamb.  Joanne and I both had it, Sunni had roasted vegetables (a-MAZ-ing), and Jeff had a large salad.  The lamb was crispy, fatty, and just…fantastic.  They even gave us four red eggs – you’re supposed to knock your egg against everyone else’s and the last person with an intact egg wins.  Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to try the local liquer, kitron.

The next morning saw us off to Santorini, where there was more souvlaki-ing at Lucky’s, along the main boulevard through Fira, ice cream waffles at Perissa beach, and a nice dinner at Mama’s House – stuffed peppers and catch of the day.  A sailing trip to the volcano took us out to Restaurant Tonia on the island of Therasia before we headed off to Crete.

The ferry ride from Santorini to Crete was by far the most horrifying boat ride I have ever been on.  It was even worse than the sometimes-sketchy ferry ride between Hong Kong and Macau, where the ferry tends to skip over the waves.  No, this was probably 100x worse.  There’s nothing like the feeling of dread when you see massive 4 m waves rolling toward your boat as you’re trying to navigate through a storm – yay, window seat!  Now, the Greeks have been sailing for millennia, so I figured they wouldn’t have tried to sail through this thing if they thought it was dangerous…but I couldn’t help feeling that there was a very real chance we could all drown in the Aegean Sea.  Needless to say, we were in no mood to eat when we arrived in Heraklion.

Our appetites returned the next day and we went out for lunch at Mouragio Maria in Rethymno, which I noticed actually has a lot of bad reviews online.  The waiter in front is really slimy, so I can relate a bit, but since it was off-season, they didn’t try to pressure us into having fish (though they did lie about the free drinks – good thing we didn’t order anything other than the one bottle of water) and let us sit there for as long as we wanted.  We had a Cretian salad, stuffed peppers, and meatballs, and the bill came out to be 40-50€, I think.  Pricey, for sure, but it was worth it for the view.  Would I go again, though?  Probably not.

We were on the overnight ferry back to Athens, which was a relatively painless night, and spent our last day in Greece eating more souvlaki at Othanassis, running into our Argentinian friends (whom we’d met by chance twice on two different islands on the trip), and having dinner at Oinomageirio to Paradosiakό in Plaka.  What an amazing end to the trip – grilled halloumi, seafood risotto and deep-fried fish with roasted garlic spread.  Highly recommend this place!

Were my expectations of Greece fulfilled?  It’s a hearty YES from me.  Friends, do yourself (and the Greeks, given the current economic situation) a favour and book your next vacation to Greece.  If you’re not dazzled by the crystal clear blue seas and friendly people, you can always occupy yourself with ouzo and wonderful food.

Next stop: Istanbul!

Thanassis: Mitropoleos 69, Monastiraki, Athens

Oinomageirio to Paradosiakό: Voulis 44A, Plaka, Athens

Lucky’s Souvlakis: Fira

Mama’s House: Main Square, Fira

Apple Snow: Golden and Delicious

October is not just a bacchanalia of overflowing beer in pubs, bars and festivals. October is certainly the time of the year where you can keep the doctor away. Why? October in the United States is National Apple Month according to the U.S. Apple Association. As autumn starts to shed the leaves of the deciduous trees, apples also become ripe for picking in fruit orchards. Because it’s the season of the apple, they will also cost cheaper in groceries (at least here in the United States) and they will also taste a lot better than apples picked “outside” of its season.

If you are a fan of mythology, literature, the classics and arts, you would probably notice that apples typically have become either a sacred, indulgent or seductive symbol. The golden apple of discord caused three Greek goddesses to clash and compete in a beauty pageant title of being the “fairest one”, indirectly precipitating into the Trojan War. The “tomboy” Atalanta lost to Hippomenes in a race after the latter threw three irresistible golden apples of joy in order to outrun her in exchange for her hand in marriage. The golden apples of Hesperides/Hisbernia bestow immortality in Greek mythology and eternal youth to the gods of Norse and Celtic mythology. Renaissance painters use apples in their paintings as emblems of condemnation and redemption in their re-imagination of Biblical stories from the fall of man to sin to the salvation by Jesus’ loving sacrifice- depending on the persona who holds the apple.

As of this month, there are 7,500 cultivars of apples based on the place of origin and their ancestors. This does not only mean that there are 7,500 apple genomes out there but this may also imply that if your tongue has a has a detection limit of 1/7500, then tastewise, it would be able to distinguish how subtly different the cultivars are. Of course there is no human tongue that is gifted enough to achieve that feat! That is why these apple cultivars are gastronomically classified according to their use – eating, cooking and cider. Not that you have to be anal retentive, but you need to plan ahead what apple cultivar you are going to use in your recipe before you buy them in the grocery.

I must confess though that I am not much of a fan of apples, I had only come to appreciate them during the celebration of National Apple Month thanks to this marvelous recipe – Apple Snow. This dessert is simply a combination of applesauce and egg whites as the latter are beaten into stiff peaks. What’s pretty slick about this dish is how the applesauce and egg whites complement the taste and the texture. The applesauce gives the mildly zesty flavor and the sweet taste while the egg whites are responsible for the creamy texture. The addition of caramel sauce finally enhances the rich taste.

But how do you address the issue of apple cultivar for the applesauce? I highly recommend the Golden Delicious (United States) which according to the U.S. Apple Association is third most popular cultivar. While the Granny Smith (Australia) is ideal for withstanding the cooking temperatures, it is not suitable for this dessert because of high malic acid content, resulting to a sour taste (Wu J, Gao H, Zhao L, Liao X, Chen F, Wang Z, Hu X. "Chemical Compositional Characterization of Some Apple Cultivars" Food Chem., 2007, 103, 88-93. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2006.07.030). In fact, I learned this the hard way from the first time I tried preparing the applesauce from Granny Smith apples. Golden Delicious is also advisable for the applesauce not only because its low malic acid content has been consistently reported from literature but also because it contains a high sugar content in comparison to sorbitol-devoid apple cultivars like the Gala (New Zealand) and the Gravenstein (Denmark) (Hecke K, Herbinger K, Veberic R, Trobec M, Toplak H, Stampar F, Keppel H, Grill D. "Sugar-, Acid- and Phenol Contents in Apple Cultivars from Organic and Integrated Fruit Cultivation" Eur. J. Clin. Nutr., 2006, 60, 1136-1140. doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602430). Finally, it just makes the experience of enjoying your apple snow both golden and delicious!

Apple Snow (taken from “The Way To Cook” by Julia Child)

Ingredients:
6 to 8 Golden Delicious apples
1 medium lemon
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or 1 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup sugar or even less
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup homemade caramel sauce

1. Wash, quarter and core out the seeds of the apples. Keep the peel in the apples to retain the flavor and the body of the sauce.
2. Place the apples in the saucepan along with the zest of the lemon and the cinnamon. Sprinkle the apples with lemon juice. Cover the pan and soften the apples under moderately low heat for 30 minutes. Make sure to stir and mash them frequently.
3. Remove from heat. (If you are using the cinnamon stick, remove the cinnamon from the saucepan) Transfer the apples into a food processor, purée and return the applesauce into the pan.
4. Boil the apple sauce, gradually adding the sugar. Stir in the vanilla.
5. Cover and chill inside the refrigerator for at least one hour.
6. Set the electric mixer at moderately low speed and beat the egg whites until they start to foam. Add the cream of tartar and increase the speed until stiff shining peaks are formed.
7. Reduce the speed and add the apple sauce into the beaten egg whites. Raise the mixer speed again until the mixture is stiff enough to hold its shape.
8. Drizzle or layer with caramel sauce any way you like it

Caramel Sauce
1/3 cup sugar
5 teaspoons water
1/3 cup cold heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Salt

1. Blend the sugar and the water in a saucepan and let them simmer.
2. Remove from heat and swirl to completely dissolve the sugar.
3. Return the pan to the stove at moderately high heat and boil for several minutes. Make sure peek into the pan. Once the bubbles look thick, uncover the pan and swirl it by its handle.
4. Boil for a few more seconds. Remove from heat and continue swirling.
5. When caramel has cooled but remains in the liquid state, add the heavy cream.
6. Whisk over moderate heat until the congealed caramel dissolves. Stir in salt and vanilla.

Oktoberfest Fare

Inside the Schützenzelt

Where: München, Germany

When: Annually, 16 days before and including the first Sunday of October

Prices

  • 1 Maß beer = 8.80€
  • 1/2 Bradhendl = 7.80€
  • 1 Kaiserschmarrn = 12.10€

Oktoberfest brings together three of the most important aspects (at least in the eyes of foreigners) of Germany: beer, dirndls and lederhosen, and wurst (and other grilled and roasted forms of meat).  The Wiesn is one of the biggest festivals in the world, and starts 16 days before the first Sunday of October.

There are all sorts of types of food – mostly carnivorous – to try: Schweinebraten or Scheinehaxe (roast pork or roast pork knuckle), a variety of würstl (I like Käsekrainer, a cheese-stuffed sausage stuffed in a bun), Kasspatzn (Käsespatzle, see Kookie’s post here), Reiberdatschi (shredded potato pancakes), and Weißwurst (white veal sausage usually only eaten before noon for breakfast, also see here).

They roast whole oxen here...and then put up the name of the ox that they just roasted.

I think Joanna’s favourite was Leberkäs (corned beef and pork), while mine was definitely the Brathendl (roasted chicken).  These come in half-chicken portion right off the spit, and are still crispy-skinned on the outside, fatty and juicy on the inside, and really, REALLY hot.  The only real way to eat them is to just pull it apart with your hands – the stalls provide moist towelettes to clean your hands off after it’s all gone.

More than 700 million liters of beer are drunken each year at Oktoberfest.  For the occasion, the Munich breweries that participate in the festival – Paulaner, Löwenbräu, Hofbräu München, Hacker-Pschorr, and local favourite Augustiner – brew a special type of beer called Märzen.  This beer has a slightly higher alcohol content than most beers, a property that helped the beer keep for longer in the old days when there was no refrigeration and people weren’t allowed to brew beer in the summer (because of the risk of fire).

Ein Prosit, ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit!

And of course, there isn’t only meat and beer served at the Wiesn.  For those that have a sweet tooth, there are also plenty of choices available.  Crepes, chocolate or sugar-coated fruit kebabs, gingerbread hearts (more for decoration than eating), and roasted candied nuts can be found every few feet.  Our friends also recommended that we try the Kaiserschmarrn at the Schützenzelt (literally, the Shooters Tent, one of Löwenbräu’s tents), which they said was the best Kaiserschmarrn at the festival.  An Austrian dessert, Kaiserschmarrn is fried pancake bits, usually served with some kind of sauce.  Ours came in a hot pan with caramelised raisins and toasted almond slivers and a dish of pflaumen sauce (plum sauce) in the middle.  Excellent when it’s just hot out of the oven and it’s just starting to get a little cold outside.

So, after an excellent Oktoberfest this year…who wants to come next year? 😉

Travel PhooD: Ladurée

Address: 75, Avenue des Champs Elysées, 75008 Paris, France

Damage: 10€/8-piece boîte simple (1.25€/piece), 14.90€/8 pieces in a gift box, 5.90€/Mont Blanc

My discovery of Ladurée, one of Paris’ most well-known luxury pâtisseries, began much like my obsession with macarons themselves – suddenly and inexplicably, but a pleasant surprise.  Macarons are simply baked meringues made of almond flour, but the double-decker maracons, invented by Pierre Desfontaines of Ladurée in 1930, feature a creamy ganache centre sandwiched between two delicate meringue shells.  Today, Ladurée sells (according to Wiki) 15,000 of these babies a day – given the lineup Kookie and I encountered today (a nice balmy 23C in Paris), that’s not too hard to believe.

There are several locations around Paris, though the original one is near Place de Concorde, just off of Rue Saint-Honoré.  The one that I always visit, without fail, though, every time I’m in Paris is the Champs Elysée location – it’s the most easily accessible, and I don’t have to make an extra trip to get there (l’Arc de Triomphe is just up two or three blocks).

Ladurée sells much more than just macarons; they also do delicious flaky pastries and some gorgeous looking chocolates.  But let’s not kid ourselves – most people are here for the macarons.  There is a wide selection of core flavours – vanille, citron, pétales de rose, caramel, pistasche, among others – as well as some few season-specific flavours, such as noix de coco and menthe in the summer, and marrons and praliné in the winter.  The reason Ladurée is so famous for them (other than the fact that they did indeed invent this style) is that they are fantasically delicious.  The texture of the meringue is perfect – a crispy shell with a delicately chewy interior.  To feed my macaron addiction, I’ve had macarons the world over, but nothing compares to the first macaron I ever had from Ladurée (vanille, Christmas Day, 2007)…except other flavours from Ladurée.  So far, the only other place that comes close is Pierre Hermé, but I find the flavours a bit out-there sometimes (Ladurée is very tranditional).

As well as rotating flavours, the gift boxes also change their design every month.  This month features several mademoiselles wearing various Ladurée pastries – Camélia here is sporting a Saint-Honoré hat.

The other thing Ladurée is famous for is its desserts- Saint-Honoré, Religieuses, Divin, Ispahan, and Mont-Blanc.  You’re not allowed to take photos inside (of course, I didn’t know that when I took the pastry photo above), but it’s truly amazing to see all their desserts lined up behind the counter.  As a treat (ok, an extra treat), I bought a Mont-Blanc to take home (yes, on a 5-hour bus back to Saarbrücken.  Somehow, it survived).

I have yet to eat it, but I’m sure it will be delicious.  And I guess the next time I’m in Paris, we’ll get a review of Pierre Hermé (I have to try his signature Ispahan)!

Easy Cheesecake

Welcome to my first decent baking experiment on PhooDJournal.  The reason I don’t bake often is because I’m not very good at 1) following instructions and 2) measuring things precisely, both of which are crucial when it comes to baking.

My brother is probably a better cheesecake baker than me – for a period of about a month, he made a large cheesecake once every couple of days.  I guess he was practicing (for what, I don’t know), but I was the lucky beneficiary, and could always count on a slice of cheesecake whenever I had a craving.  Cheesecake isn’t really a cake; it’s more like a custard.  It’s simpler to make than most people think, tastes delicious, and not so easy to mess up.  In other words, it’s my kind of baking recipe.

My favourite type of cheesecake is New York-style, since the crust is one of my favourite parts.  I haven’t seen graham crackers in Germany, so I substituted with Butterkeks, which don’t have the same crunchiness or honey flavour, but they do the basic job just fine.  And, of course, since I made this recipe up myself, the exact measurements probably aren’t too important – if the batter is easily pourable and tastes yummy before you put it in the oven, it’ll be fine when you take it back out!

Ingredients (makes one 20cm cake)

  • 150g graham crackers/sweet biscuits
  • 7 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 400g Frischkäse (2 pkgs) – you can also use cream cheese, but Frischkäse is cheaper this side of the Pond
  • 6 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 drops vanilla extract

Method

  1. Put crackers into a resealable bag and smash (with fist, cup, rolling pin, whatever) until fine.
  2. Pour in butter and squeeze butter and crumb together.  If the crumbs don’t hold together, add more butter.  If the mixture looks too oily (if there are oil trails on the inside of the bag), add more crackers.
  3. Dump contents of bag into a cake form and press the crumb mixture into the bottom and sides of the pan, making sure the mixture is well-packed.
  4. In a bowl, add the cheese, eggs, sugar, and vanilla.
  5. Blend using a stabmixer (engl: immersion blender) or a hand mixer until smooth.
  6. Pour mixture into crust-lined pan.
  7. Bake at 220C (using the bottom element only) until the edges appear somewhat firm, but the middle is still a bit jiggly (about 20 min).
  8. Remove from oven and cool at room temperature for 2 hours.
  9. Set in fridge overnight at 4C.
  10. Cut using a warm knife, being careful while cutting through the centre (since it’s the most fragile part).

    Careful cutting through the centre...and don't turn on the top burner...
  11. Serve with optional sauce.

Discussion

I make a bit of a strawberry sauce from cut up strawberries boiled in sugar and water…it’s not as bright red as the sauce in restaurants, but I think they add food colouring.  Blueberries, raspberries, or any other type of berry would go just as well.

You can’t really overbake a cheesecake the same way you overbake a normal cake, but if you turn on the top element, the top of the cheesecake burns rather quickly or it can crack, so it’s best to turn only the bottom on and let the heat circulate through the oven.

Right, I thought this was going to be a quick write-up, but evidently not.  Need to sleep NOW – Paris tomorrow.

Cream Cheese on FoodistaCream Cheese

The Cookie Crack’d from Side to Side – Chocolate Crinkles

No, this is not a spin-off of an Agatha Christie novel.  Neither is this a serious, original recipe post (you can get it here), but more of a running commentary about making and eating this sweet goodie.

Unbaked chocolate crinkles

Chocolate crinkles are very much popular back in Manila.  This particular cookie is a regular item in school cafeterias, holiday bazaars and specialty bakeries—but not on a supermarket shelf, since it is too soft and fudgy to withstand rough commercial handling.  Its soft, fudgy, chocolate-y core hidden beneath the fine dusting of confectioner’s sugar is the dark, sweet secret of its popularity.

Om nom nom crinkles
Perfect crinkle shot by Kookie 😀

What’s so nice about baking chocolate crinkles is its simplicity—no need for cookie cutters, rolling pins and what-have-you.  You can make the dough way ahead of time(it is, in essence, a “dump-everything-and-mix” technique) and store it in the fridge; the dough itself has little moisture, hence the “crinkling” during baking (and storing it in the fridge removes more moisture, thus more “crinkles” on the cookie surface).  Perfect go-to baking recipe for a grad student with a sweet tooth, and an instant crowd-pleaser.  I mean, who doesn’t like chocolate?

Just a few tips: you can go “generic” with the base ingredients like flour and sugar, and even butter (provided that you live in Europe, where standard butter here is “European” butter, with at least 80-85% fat)…but never, EVER scrimp on chocolate!  For obvious reasons, of course.  And don’t hesitate to experiment with cookie sizes—the recent batch I made were “mini” crinkles, which paired well with vanilla ice cream.

Yes, nothing like chocolate, vanilla and sugar to win everyone’s hearts.  Just watch your insulin levels, though.

Raspberry Mille-Feuille with Chantilly Crème

Happy Easter, everyone!  Regardless of whether you actually celebrate Easter religiously or not (or if you’re just a heathen like me 😉 ), you just can’t avoid the images of Easter include Easter eggs, the Easter bunny, and spring flowers.  For me, Easter means a four-day break from school, and cheap chocolate the Tuesday after.  Most people have gone home to their families, so I’m stuck here in Saarbrücken with nothing to do but study. Riveting, right?

So I’m bored enough to actually bring out my oven (I’m finally back in Germany after a wonderful trip back home to Vancouver) and *gasp* bake something. I know. Janet doesn’t bake. And when she does, it usually turns into a disaster. But this is a simple recipe with bright colours and *almost* fool-proof baking – a perfect entertaining recipe to wow your friends/roommates with using your dessert-making, plating, and French skills (of course, you could also eat it by yourself…but I was a good girl and shared with Ronald today).

I’ve recently acquired an interest in berry-based desserts – spring is coming, berries photograph really well, and…yes. Mille-feuille literally translates into “thousand sheets” in French, a name that comes from the flaky puff pastry layers. However, the real star is the filling – who can resist berries and crème?

The amount of ingredients is approximate, and really depends on how big a mille-feuille you make, how you arrange the raspberries and crème, etc. I arranged them in rows, but you can also put a raspberries along the edge and fill the centre with crème, or pile the raspberries onto a layer of crème. Be creative! I would buy extra raspberries, just in case – you can always use the extras for garnish (or sneak a few for ‘quality control purposes’).

Raspberry Mille-Feuille with Chantilly Crème

Materials and Methods

  • 1 small package raspberries
  • 200g whipping cream
  • a few drops vanilla extract
  • 4 Tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1/2 package puff pastry/Blätterteig
  • 1 package whipped cream stiffner/Sahnesteif (optional)
  • You might also need: a hand mixer and a piping bag
  1. Cut enough puff pastry to make the mille-feuille. Place on waxed paper and stab thoroughly with a fork to prevent puffing of the top layers.
  2. In an oven set to approximately 200C, bake puff pastry sheet until golden. Remove and set aside to cool.
  3. Pour whipping cream, stiffner, vanilla extract, and sugar into a bowl and whip until stiff peaks form.
  4. Cut puff pastry into three equally-sized layers, and cut off the top layer if necessary (if it has bulged up during baking). When cutting puff pastry, make sure to use a serrated knife and NEVER PUSH DOWN. The weight of the knife itself will be enough to cut neatly through the layers. Otherwise, you will end up with unsightly cracked pastry…
  5. Put the first layer on a plate, pipe crème and add raspberries, put the next layer on, and repeat.
  6. Serve immediately or keep cool in refrigerator (the crème will hold better if you’ve added stiffner).

Discussion

I added too much extract, and now my apartment smells like butter-vanilla!  Other than that, I think this dessert actually turned out alright. While the creme does keep if you’ve added stiffener, it’s best to assemble it just before eating – the pastry layers will still be crisp, and it makes a nice foil to the soft creme and berries.

I tried to make a sugar garnish à-la-David (boil sugar and water until the sugar hardens when dropped into cold water), but also added a raspberry into the sugar mixture as it was boiling to make it red. I also stacked a few fresh raspberries on the side – something I’ve noticed when photographing food is that the pros often include a small amount of the raw ingredients in the picture. I think it makes it look more rustic.

You can use any berry (or really any ingredient – you could even try a savoury mille-feuille with cheese and leeks) for this dessert.  The brilliant thing is that it is so simple to modify, since there aren’t any real “baking” steps (heating up premade puff pastry isn’t difficult…though if you’re making the pastry from scratch, that’s pretty hardcore.  But this is a ‘college-lifestyle’ kind of blog, so there’s none of that here, at least not from me).  It’s easily adjustable for both flavour, content, and size – definitely my kind of recipe!

Chocolate Revel Bar with Mango Cream and Raspberry Coulis

Hi Everyone!  I’m back to writing about food.  It’s been a while, ain’t it?  Actually it would have taken longer but I have paper/progress report writing to procrastinate ergo this post.

Because it’s sorely overdue, I’m posting about the dessert we served during my birthday lunch.

I must admit I was doubtful at first as to how well the tangy mango cream and raspberry coulis would go with my revel bars, but David managed to convince me with his little work of art.

The Chocolate Revel Bars, a hit with my officemates, were prepared using the recipe found in Better Homes and Garden which you can find here.  It’s a major crowd pleaser here in Germany.  I mean how can you go wrong with oatmeal, butter, chocolate and sweetened condensed milk?

The other components?  Here’s how we David made them.

MATERIALS and METHODS
Mango Cream

  • 3 cups whipping cream
  • 1 cup mango puree (available in Asian food stores)
  • 2 gelatin sheets
  • confectioner’s sugar to taste

1 Heat mango puree.  Add two gelatin sheets and let it dissolve.  Cool.
2 Whip the cream until soft peaks form.  Fold in some confectioner’s sugar until slightly sweetened or to taste.
3 Fold in mango puree mixture.
4 Freeze until it has the texture of semi-frozen mousse (almost semifreddo-like)

Raspberry Coulis

  • Fresh raspberries (or frozen ones)
  • sugar

0 If using frozen raspberries, thaw.
1 Puree the raspberries using a stabmixer
2 Cook the raspberries over low heat.  Add enough sugar to make the mixture sweet without losing it’s tanginess.

Everything was put together on a dessert plate and was topped with white chocolate slices and toffee.

It would be nice to find a reason to do something this grand again.  A publication perhaps?

Travel PhooD: Thomas Haas

    City: Vancouver, Canada
    Location: 998 Harbourside Drive, North Vancouver; 2539 West Broadway Avenue, Vancouver
    Eaten: Small hot chocolate and double-baked almond croissant
    Damage: $11.08CAD

    There used to be a bakery called sen5es that made gorgeous cakes in the Metropolitan Hotel in downtown Vancouver.  Their head pastry chef, Thomas Haas, also did dessert consulting for the restaurant attached to the hotel, Diva at the Met (so, unsurprisingly, their desserts are also delicious!).  The Met started renovations a few years back and, as such, I didn’t ever get a chance to try any of their cakes.  However, I soon discovered (thanks to the internet) that Chef Haas also owned a bakery and chocolate shop out in North Vancouver – why not go straight to the source?

    The trek out to North Vancouver was a rather long one, a good two hours one-way, so I always set aside an entire half day to go (it’s not somewhere you go on a whim unless you have a lot of free time).  I’d have to walk about 30 minutes from the nearest bus stop to the pastry shop, which was located at the end of a quiet industrial street – not exactly the place you’d expect to find a world-class chocolatier and pâtissier.

    Thomas Haas is a fourth-generation pastry chef, whose great-grandfather opened the Café Konditorei Haas in Aichhalden bei Schramberg in the Schwarzwald (eng.: Black Forest) in Germany in 1918.  He is one of the top pastry chefs in Canada and has won a number of awards, and every time I go back to his shop, I’m so excited to try his chocolates.  So when I heard from my former professor at UBC that a second location in Kerrisdale had been opened, I absolutely had to go visit.

    Though I really love Haas chocolates (my favourite is the vanilla with smoked Hawaiian sea salt chocolate caramel, but do try them all), the star of his pastry case has to be the double-baked almond croissant.  Out of all the croissants I’ve eaten anywhere in the world (and I’ve eaten a lot more than I care to remember), this has to be the best one.  Yes, the BEST one.  Better than Paul, better than Ladurée – I’ve never had a croissant like it before.  The outside is incredibly golden and flaky, smothered in thinly-sliced toasted almonds and a light dusting of powdered sugar; inside is a soft, sweet almond filling.  You can tell they don’t skimp on the butter with every delicious, crispy bite.

    The hot chocolate was rich and silky dark chocolate with a thick layer of foam and a cocoa powder heard dusted on top.  An excellent accompaniment to any of the desserts, but together with the croissant, it was a little too much for one person.  I still felt really full four hours later.  A better idea would be to go with friend, get two hot chocolates, and split a croissant.  You’ll also feel slightly less guilty if you decide to try a second dessert. =)

    The Kerrisdale location is a little more spacious and has more seating, but I still think the chocolate selection is better at the original North Vancouver location.  If you’re lucky, you might even seen Chef Haas himself!