Croissants and Petits Pains au Chocolat

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After months of drought here in San Diego we are finally getting some much-needed rain.  Rain was predicted all weekend which is exactly what happened.  I don’t know what it is but rainy days always make me want to bake.  I was feeling adventurous and since outdoor activity was pretty much not going to happen I decided to use the time to indulge myself and make croissants.  There is nothing difficult or at all daunting about making these but they are time-consuming so plan your time in advance.  With that being said the hands on time with this is actually quite minimal.  Most of the time is spent waiting on the dough while it chills between rollings.  This dough and the procedure for making it is very similar to that for puff pastry.  The exceptions here being that the “trope” or top dough for croissants is yeasted and made with milk as opposed to puff pastry which has no yeast at all.  My only warnings or tricks here would be to work quickly, keep everything cold and don’t force anything.

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The top dough and butter need to rest in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours to overnight before they are combined so I began on Friday after work.  This process takes only about 30 minutes for both so it is easy to fit it in while making dinner.

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The dough is easy,   It is simply 3 3/4 cups flour, 1 ounce of cake yeast (1 tablespoon active dry yeast), 1/3 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 cup milk.  Put everything in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on low-speed with a dough hook for about 2 minutes just to get the flour moistened and the dough started, then turn the mixer to its highest speed and mix for about 3 minutes constantly checking the dough.  It should be moist and should pick up all the flour from the bottom of the bowl.  If it doesn’t add a little milk a tablespoon at a time and check to see that all the flour is moistened.  Once the dough has formed and is smooth and supple, wrap it in plastic wrap and place it in a plastic bag and allow it to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes to ferment.  Meanwhile, work on the butter.  Take 1 pound 2 ounces of chilled unsweetened butter and place it in the bowl of a stand mixer, to this add 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour and mix using the paddle attachment for about 2 minutes.  The flour will ensure that any water in the butter will be absorbed which makes the dough flaky.  Remove the butter from the bowl and pound it a few times on the counter to remove any air pockets.  For it into block about 5 inches wide and i inch high.  Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  Once the dough has rested, refrigerate it with the butter for a minimum of 8 hours.

After the dough and butter have chilled overnight, roll the dough out to a rectangle about 17 inches long and 10 inches wide.  Keep the dough floured while working.  Place the dough with the short side facing you.  Brush off excess flour and place the butter block in the center of the dough.  Fold the bottom up over the butter and brush off the flour.  Fold the top down and again brush off excess flour.  Turn the dough sideways so the open ends are on the left and right.  If the dough fells too soft, chill it for about an hour, otherwise, using a rolling-pin, begin lightly beating the butter from the center to the outside edge while holding the other end steady.  You want to coax the butter out the edge of the dough.  Hold the flattened end and lightly beat the butter from the center to the other edge.  Once you have the butter uniformly even you can make the first turn.  This dough will get three turns, 2 single turns and 1 double turn.Once again, keep everything cold so if the dough feels too soft, chill it for an hour before continuing.  Brush off excess flour and fold the left side into the center, brush off flour and fold the right side over to the edge, like a brochure fold.  Dust off all excess flour, wrap in plastic wrap and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Mark the parchment with 1 turn so you will remember what you have done and chill for 2 hours.

Once the dough has rested and chilled repeat the above process and mark the parchment as having had 2 turns and again wrap and chill for 2 hours.  Once the dough has chilled again you are ready for the final turn which is the double turn.  Again, roll the dough out to a rectangle about 23 inches long by 15 inches wide.  Dust off excess flour and fold the left side into the center.  Fold the right side into the center leaving about a half in gap in the center of the dough.  Fold the left side over the right and match the edges.  Wrap in plastic and allow to chill for 2 hours.

At this point the dough is ready to be formed or it can be tightly wrapped and frozen for about a month.

 

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To form the croissants:

Place the dough with the seam side on the left and cut it in half horizontally.  Wrap one half and refrigerate while working with the other half.  Roll the dough into a rectangle about 20 inches long and 15 inches wide.  Remember the dough is chilled and yeasted so it will want to resist.  Don’t force it, just work quickly and allow the dough to rest a few minutes if it seems to resist.  Once fully rolled, dust off excess flour, with the long edge toward you, fold the dough in half lengthwise, folding the top down to the bottom edge, dust off flour and using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut triangles about 3 inches wide.  There will be excess dough cut from each end which will be used later.  Unfold the dough and you will be left with diamond shape pieces.  Cut these in half to form triangles.

Take one triangle and gently stretch the wide end to widen it slightly.  Holding the wide end in one hand with fingers in back and thumb on top of the dough, gently use the other hand to stretch the dough from wide end to point to lengthen it.  Take a small piece of scrap dough and place it in the center of the wide end of the triangle.  Fold the dough over the scrape and then with one hand on each side of the wide end with the point facing you, keep the heel of your hand flat on the counter and with the fingertips roll the dough toward you.  Place the formed croissant on a parchment lined baking sheet with the point up and facing you.  Once they are all formed, brush with egg glaze and allow to sit at room temperature for 3 hours before baking.

To make the Petits Pains au Chocolat, roll the dough out in exactly the same manner but instead of cutting triangles, cut strips about 3-4 inches wide, unfold the dough and cut the strips in half.  Place about 1 ounce of chocolate on one end of the dough and rolled the dough up.  Place on parchment lined baking sheet and press down slightly.  Brush with egg glaze and allow to rest at room temperature for 3 hours.

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To bake, Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, place racks at even thirds in the oven.  Brush the croissants with another layer of egg glaze and bake them for about 12 minutes.  Rotate the pans, top to bottom and bake to front and bake for another 4 – 6 minutes until they are golden brown.  Cool on racks to room temperature.  The Petits Pains are baked exactly the same way.

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Time consuming yes, but worth every minute you spend on them.

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Baked Sonoma Kiev

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We are very fond of Chicken Kiev in my house but not found of all the oil it takes to deep fry it and we are all trying to cut down on the amount of fried foods we are eating these days.  I have had a craving for Chicken Kiev for the past week and have been thinking of ways to make it without all the oil and butter.  Today I was rummaging through the refrigerator and found a few ingredients that I had on hand and an idea started forming about a way to make a mock Kiev.

I took some goat cheese and mixed it with some chopped Italian parsley, salt, pepper and chopped roasted red peppers.  I then spread it on some thinly sliced smoked turkey that I had on hand for sandwiches.  I rolled this up into a tight package.  Then I took my chicken breasts and cut a deep pocket into them and stuffed the cheese bundles inside.  I rolled the breasts up as tightly as I could.  Then I dredged them in seasoned flour and then into a bit of cream beaten with an egg and then dunked the whole thing into fresh toasted bread crumbs.  Then I baked the chicken for about 30 minutes at 325.  I just kept checking it with an instant read thermometer until the chicken was fully cooked.

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I served the chicken with Risotto made from Arborio rice, white wine and chicken stock and then added peas during the last 5 minutes of cooking.  In Italian this is called Risi e Bisi and it has always been a favorite of mine since childhood.  On the side I served some steamed green beans with an oil and wine vinegar vinaigrette and sprinkled them with some sliced almonds.

For some reason the combination of goat cheese and roasted peppers reminded me of the foods we eat when we visit the Northern California wine country and my favorite area in the region is Sonoma County so I doubted it Sonoma Kiev.  I’m not sure exactly how much healthier it really is but I felt better that I didn’t fry it and it certainly satisfied my craving for Chicken Kiev.

Extraordinary Cakes – Tortamisu

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I grew up eating Tiramisu.  It was just one of those things that was always there in the background.  We would have it for weeknight dessert, when you went to visit your grandparents, there it was, visit a favorite aunt or family friend and out came the Tiramisu with the coffee.  It was never one of my favorite things and it certainly wasn’t one of the long anticipated fancy desserts that you only got once or twice a year on holidays.  It was just like an old reliable friend always there waiting.  Then in the 1990′s when it seemed like everyone suddenly discovered it and you would have thought that they found some sort of miracle cure.  Suddenly it turned up everywhere and every restaurant in the country seemed to have their version of it on the menu.  It was then that I developed a true hatred for the stuff.  It just seemed that you couldn’t escape it no matter how hard you tried.  It still seems to turn up everywhere and to my mind at least it just isn’t worth all the fuss.

This cake is a nice variation on the Tiramisu theme.  It has all the flavors of a traditional Tiramisu without all the hubbub and certainly without the not so good parts which to me are the dreadful soggy ladyfingers.  I admit to an aversion for wet, soggy foods.  I don’t like a lot of condiments and things on my sandwiches.  Somehow I just don’t like picking up my sandwich only to find half of it stuck to the plate or taking a bite of it and finding I am eating baby food.  It just seems wrong to me.

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This cake does away with the soggy mess and uses instead a firm ricotta pound cake as its base.  This is the same pound cake that was used for the Ricotta Passion Fruit cake.  The recipe calls for grape seed oil which I know is supposed to be flavorless but when I made it the first time I felt that it had a slight undertaste from the grape seed oil that I didn’t particularly care for. No one else seemed to notice so I figured it was just me.  When I made the cake again with my friend Jill I once again noticed that undertaste although no one else seemed to,  This time I decided to make it with vegetable oil which the recipe says may be substituted.  I found that undertaste was good and so from now on vegetable oil it is.  I guess it really just boils down to my dislike of oil based cakes in general but this truly is a really marvelous cake base.

The rest of the cake is very simple as compared with many of the other cakes in the book.  It is composed of a mascarpone mousse filling and whipped cream.  Very easy.

The mouse is a standard cooled vanilla custard with the mascarpone cheese folded in.  And the whipped cream is just flavored with a bit of sugar.

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The cake is torted into three thin layers.  The first layer goes down and is drenched with espresso coffee as the soaking syrup.  Then a layer of mousse and a layer of whipped cream.  Traditionally shaved chocolate with go in next.   The recipe doesn’t call for it but I took artistic license and dusted the layer with cocoa powder just for effect.  The next layer repeats the same process and then the final layer goes on and is soaked with espresso.  The entire cake is then frosted with sweetened whipped cream, edged with chocolate sprinkles and then the cake is decorated as desired and dusted with cocoa powder.

There you have it, the Tortamisu.  All the great flavor of a traditional Tiramisu without the soggy mess and certainly a small effort with a very big payoff.

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Extraordinary Cakes – Banana Cream Torte

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I just don’t think that bananas are really given a fair shake when it comes to desserts.  Aside from the occasional pudding or cream pie they really don’t show up on the dessert table very often and that is really a shame because they really have a lot to offer in a dessert.  As a child banana cake with chocolate frosting was one of my favorite cakes and I still can’t resist a big piece of it,  Banana cream pie remains one of my all time favorites.

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This cake certainly delivers on the bananas in a dessert category.  The cake is totally gluten free as it uses a combination of almond, brown rice, potato and coconut flours and honey serves as a sweetener here.  I splurged and used a jar of wonderful mango honey that I got this past summer at the farmers market from the local bee keeper and have been saving for a special occasion.  I think this cake certainly lives up to the challenge.  The cake base is resplendent with bananas, pineapple and nuts.  It is a dense cake but is super moist and holds up well for torting,

The filling is a wonderful cream cheese frosting which is lightened with sweetened whipped cream and is cloud like in appearance and heaven on the palate.  The special treat here is the addition of a nut dacquoise layer which is loaded with pecans and almonds and adds just the right amount of texture to the extremely light filling.

The cake is baked and torted into three thin layers.  It is then doused with vanilla syrup and a thick layer of cream cheese filling is added.  This layer is topped with sliced bananas and then the dacquoise layer is added and topped with more cream cheese filling.  The second cake layer is added followed by more syrup, filling and bananas before the final cake layer is applied, drenched in syrup and the top is covered with more frosting.  When ready to finish the cake, it is entirely frosted with the cream cheese frosting and the sides are covered with sliced almonds.  Then the cake is decorated as desired and it is ready for service.

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An extraordinary cake indeed.

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Extraordinary Cakes – Strawberry Poppyseed Cake

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To me this is nothing short of total dessert heaven.  All of my favorite dessert ingredients (butter, vanilla, lemon, strawberries, whipped cream and poppy seeds) all rolled into one gorgeous cake.  It is truly a sight to behold and heaven on the palate.  Who could ask for anything more in a dessert?  It is a combination of a few basic components, rich butter cake, a luscious pastry cream and strawberries all held together with billowy clouds of lightly sweetened whipped cream.  A minor miracle on a plate.

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The cake base is a small miracle in itself.  Rich and buttery and lightly perfumed with the sweet tang of lemon juice and zest and topped off with the slight crunchiness of poppy seeds.  It has a moist texture and a nice light crumb but is still firm enough to thinly slice into layers and hold its shape.   I wouldn’t think twice about baking this cake in a square or sheet pan, giving it a dusting of confectioners sugar and just snacking on it morning, noon and night.  It is that good.

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The smooth vanilla pastry cream starts out as a regular vanilla custard with eggs, mild and cream and heavily perfumed with vanilla beans.  The secret here is addition of lightly whipped cream to make it ethereal and a little gelatin to help it hold its shape.  It is truly delicious and would make a wonderful filling for cream puffs or éclairs or simply served on its own as a pudding with maybe an almond tuille on the side.  Scrumptious.

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The cake is leveled and the crumbs toasted to be used as decoration.  The cake is then sliced into three thin layers.  The first layer goes down and is drenched in a lemon simple syrup.  Then a thick layer of the vanilla pastry cream and a healthy layer of sliced strawberries and then topped off with a thick layer of sweetened whipped cream.  The second layer goes on and the process is repeated.  The top layer is added, drenched in syrup and then pastry cream.  The entire cake is them robed in a thick layer of more sweetened whipped cream.  The sides are decorated with the toasted cake crumbs and then the top is decorated with more whipped cream and accented with lemon slices and strawberries.   Total and complete heaven,

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Lentil Salad

 

TopCloseWith the long Labor Day weekend upon us and all the guests coming and going, picnics, barbeques and invitations, I found myself in need of some side dishes to serve and to bring to friends houses.  Aside from the usual potato, macaroni, pasta and bean salads I wanted something a bit different for our Labor Day picnic.  In recent years many of our friends have become vegetarians or nearly vegetarians.  I was a vegetarian for many years and I know what it feels like to approach a buffet table and end up eating tossed green salad while everyone else is feasting.  Over those years I became quite found of lentils as a source of protein and I still have a certain weakness for them.  I have had this recipe for years and I have absolutely no recollection of where I got or I certainly would give credit where credit is due.   It from but it has become a favorite around my house.  To whoever invented this recipe I offer my sincere apologies for reposting it here and my many thanks for years of delightful eating pleasure.

The recipe is great because it is really nothing more than cooked lentils, onion and a spicy dressing.  It is left up to you to add whatever ingredients you deem suitable to your taste.  The possibilities are endless.  Some of my favorite things to add are nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds), dried cherries, dried cranberries, cilantro, dates, prunes, flax seeds.  You get the idea.

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Lentil Salad

Ingredients:

2 ¼ cups (1 lb.)  lentils, DuPuy or French green lentils.  Do not use brown lentils as they tend to get too mushy during cooking.

1 medium red onion, diced

1 cup raisins or currants

1/3 cup capers, rinsed

Dressing:

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1 Tbsp. maple syrup

1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. pepper

1 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. turmeric

1/2 tsp. ground coriander

1/2 tsp. ground cardamom

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

 

Directions: 1.

Rinse and drain lentils. Place in a saucepan and cover with about 4 inches of water, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer then lentils until done. Check lentils for doneness often and be very careful to not overcook the lentils.  They should still have a bite to them.

2. To make the dressing,  by place all ingredients in a screw top jar and shake to combine.

3. Finely dice red onion.

4. When the lentils are cooked, drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking. While the lentils are still warm, toss with the dressing. Add the onion, capers, and raisins or currants and any other additional ingredients your choose and refrigerate until ready to serve. If you plan on adding fresh herbs wait until ready to serve before adding them so they retain their bright color and flavor.

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Extraordinary Cakes – Beau Soleil

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The Beau Soleil (Beautiful Sun) is certainly beautiful and it truly delivers on its name.  It is truly a beautiful taste of sunshine.  I was hell-bent on making this cake for one reason and one reason only…Peaches.  There is just nothing as delicious as a fresh ripe summer peach and this cake is loaded with that heavenly peach flavor.

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The cake is composed of a Hazelnut Jaconde base with an orange soaking syrup.  On top of that is a Mascarpone cheese mousse, Peach curd, Hazelnut Praline and whipped cream.  Now I ask you, does it get any better than that.  No it certainly doesn’t and I don’t think anything can touch this cake as far as taste goes.  It is just indescribably delicious and well worth every minute you put into making it.  While all of this may sound daunting and is a bit time-consuming there is nothing about the cake that is at all difficult.

The Jaconde base is a firm and rather dense cake but surprisingly light.  It is a dream to work with as far as torting the layers go.  It slices like a dream and holds its shape extremely well.  It has a mild nutty flavor by way of almond flour and hazelnuts but isn’t at all heavy.  The orange soaking syrup is a perfect complement to the nuts.

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The mascarpone mousse is sinful, silky, sensuous, ethereal, dreamy and just plain good.  It is so smooth and silky it practically disappears on your tongue and if you didn’t want to bother making the cake this mousse is good enough to stand up as a dessert on its own.

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The peach curd is more of a chunky peach conserve.  Part of the peaches are cooked in butter and brown sugar to caramelize them.  Then the rest of the peaches are cooked with granulated sugar until they are just tender and then the caramelized peaches are stirred in.  The aroma in the kitchen was more than I could bear.  Total heaven this.  This curd would be great on morning toast or English muffins.  It would also be great stirred into homemade vanilla ice cream with a handful of hazelnuts or simply poured over store bought ice cream.

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While I was making this cake I kept thinking that these components could easily be assembled as a Peach Trifle for a summer buffet table or afternoon tea.

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To assemble, the cake base is torted into three layers, the first layer goes into the mold and is drenched with the orange soaking syrup, next comes a layer of the mascarpone mousse and then a layer of peach curd.  Onto the curd a mild honey is drizzled and then a layer of sweetened whipped cream.  Next the ground hazelnut praline is scattered and then the second cake layer is added and the process continued until the final layer is added.  This layer is brushed with the soaking syrup and a final layer of mousse is added to the top.  The entire cake is then covered with sweetened whipped cream.  The sides are covered with more ground hazelnut praline and the top is covered in thinly sliced peaches to resemble the sun.  The peaches need to be ripe but firm freestone peaches.  I found that slicing the peaches on a mandoline worked very well for getting them thin and evenly sliced.

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Extraordinary Cakes – Passion Fruit Ricotta Cake

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Extraordinary Cakes is divided into sections by season.  The first few cakes that I did were from the Spring section but since we are full on into summer now I decided to skip ahead to the Summer section.  The first cake that caught my eye was this Passion Fruit Ricotta cake.  I am sure the first thing that struck me was that it had a pound cake base.  Faithful readers will know of my total devotion to pound cake.  I just can’t get enough of it.  Add to that ricotta cheese and my Italian heritage kicks in and I am totally hooked.  Naturally I just couldn’t resist this one and couldn’t wait to get into the kitchen to make it.

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The cake base is a very simple although not at all a traditional pound cake.  It uses ricotta cheese and no butter at all but replaces the butter with unflavored oil.  This gave me a bit of cause for alarm on my first read through of the recipe.  If you have been following me for awhile then you are all familiar with the story of my aunt’s Mazola oil cake (which of course is nothing but a chiffon cake and not at all a favorite of mine) and was the cake that we had at every family get together.  I so detested this cake as a child that I flatly refused to eat it and to this day I cringe when a piece of chiffon cake is set before me.  I needn’t have worried here, the cake is marvelous.  It bakes to a beautiful golden brown and even though I used magic strips it still domed in the center.  This is not a problem as you need to slice off the top one quarter inch and toast the cake crumbs to decorate the side of the cake.  The cake has a rather dense texture but also has a rather holed appearance.  When sliced there are many small holes which you would not expect in a dense textured pound cake.  All the better for soaking up the wonderful passion fruit syrup and the cake does remain firm but moist and is heavenly to work with.  It is very easy to slice the three layers needed and they remain beautifully intact while the cake is assembled.

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The soaking syrup is the standard sugar and water variety to which is added passion fruit puree.  The syrup is a bit heavier than the usual soaking syrup but this denser cake takes it up very easily and man oh man is it ever delicious.

The filling is made from a combination of whipped cream and passion fruit curt.  This passion fruit curd is similar to lemon curd with the exception of fewer eggs and the addition of gelatin sheets.  It firms up as well as traditional lemon curd but remains very smooth which makes folding it into the whipped cream a breeze.

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To assemble, the cake base is sliced into three 1/4 inch layers and the domed top is sliced off, crumbled and toasted for later use.  The first layer goes into the mold, brushed with the soaking syrup.  The passion fruit curd is folded into sweetened whipped cream and about 1 cup of the passion fruit whipped cream is spread on top.  Next comes a layer of sliced bananas and sliced kiwi.  The second cake layer is added and the process is repeated except this time a layer of sliced strawberries is added on top of the passion fruit whipped cream.  The final layer goes on and is drenched with the soaking syrup.  The cake is wrapped in plastic wrap and goes into the freezer for its overnight rest.

When ready to finish the cake, it is removed from the mold and a thin layer of passion fruit whipped cream is spread over the top and sides.  The sides are then coated with the toasted cake crumbs and the top is piped with concentric circles of the remaining whipped cream and then decorated as desired.  All in all it makes a beautiful summer presentation.

Unfortunately, I made this cake for Norman to take to one of his work functions so I didn’t get to taste it but I did ask him to get some reactions from the people at the event and write me up description of what they said.  Norman tends to get a bit flowery with his prose but here is what he had to say.

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“This beautiful cake can be a warm weather treat full of a variety of textures and tastes.   The dewy, velvety almost creamy cake formed a wonderful base when contrasted by the texture of the outer ring of toasted cake crumbs.  The sweet mélange of bananas, kiwis and strawberries were complemented by the aromatic passion fruit purée.”

I think he has been watching too much Nigella Lawson but I appreciate his kind words about this cake.  Makes me even sorrier I didn’t get to taste it but there is always next time, as I am sure there will be a next time.

Gutsy Cooks Club – Panzanella and Chicken with Two Lemons

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I am going to be traveling for the next few weeks so I thought I would kill two birds with one stone and make a couple of this months recipes.  Marie has chosen several wonderful recipes from Marcella Hazan for this months Gutsy Cooks.  I have been a fan of Marcella for many years and have cooked my way through many of her books.  Maries recipes for this month are a few that I have missed.

Panzanella

Panzanella has been a family favorite in my family for as long as I can remember.  As a child I absolutely detested raw tomatoes (and actually I still prefer them cooked), panzanella was one of the few ways  my mom could get me to eat them.  We had it often in the summer when the ripe tomatoes were plentiful in my dad’s or grandfathers gardens.  I have taken just a few liberties with this recipe.  My mom never peeled the tomatoes and I have also chosen not to peel them here.  She also always added fresh basil and I just can’t imagine ripe tomatoes without it so I have also added it here.  Other than that the recipe is almost identical to what I grew up with and was delicious.

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I just happened to have a whole chicken in the freezer which I was saving for stock but I decided it would be nice to try the chicken with two lemons here.  The recipe is simplicity itself.  Nothing but chicken, lemons, salt and pepper.  Prep is easy, just wash and dry the chicken.  Salt and pepper it and add the pierced lemons.  Truss it loosely and then roast it breast side down for 30 minutes.  Turn it over and roast for another 30 minutes.  Then raise the oven temperature to 400 and roast for another 25 minutes.  It practically cooks itself.  Marcella says that if the skin is unbroken and you have trussed correctly the chicken will  puff up.  I am not exactly sure what I was expecting to see but the chicken does in fact puff.  When done the chicken is nice and swollen with a beautiful golden skin.  Perfection.  You simply will not  believe the incredible aroma that comes from the bird as it is carved.  The meat is tender and very juicy with a wonderful lemony flavor.  And don’t overlook the pan juices.  I separated out the fat and added a bit of white wine.  Reduced it slightly and enriched with a bit of butter.  Heavenly.

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Fresh Peach Ice Cream and Peach Pie

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Peaches have got to be my all time favorite fruit.  While I like pears in the fall and cherries and apricots I always long for those lazy summer days and fresh peaches.  A few weeks ago Norman started talking about peach ice cream and how his mother used to churn it from the peaches they got from the trees on their farm.  Of course this stirred memories of my own childhood when I would go with my parents or grandfather to pick bushels of fresh peaches from the local orchards.  It seemed like we would pick tons of them and then my mom would can them for winter and we of course would eat them until we would almost burst.  The rest went into cobblers, crisps, pies, brandied peaches and of course ice cream.  I remember when my dad would get 0ut the old ice cream churn, fill it with ice and my mom would make the custard and pour it in and we would sit on the porch while my dad churned and I would sit by watching and adding salt to the ice.  I never quite understood as a child why it was a necessary step but it became my job to add the salt.  That ice cream was so good we could hardly wait for it to freeze so we could dig in.

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Normans talk set me on a quest to find some peach ice cream.  When we were in France I remember going into any local market and finding it along with apricot, currant, hazelnut and grapefruit.  Well, off I went in search of this ice cream and no matter how many stores I went to I could not find any.  There was a glut of mint chocolate chip, rocky road, moose tracks, swirls of all kinds, confetti and cookies and cupcake and bubblegum but not a spoonful of peach anywhere.  Even Baskin-Robbins,  Coldstone Creamery and the local mom and pop ice cream stores just looked at me and shrugged when I asked.  When those beautiful, golden, ripe and juicy peaches started arriving at the farmers market I knew exactly what I needed to do and into the kitchen I went to finally end my quest.  Fresh peach ice cream and peach pie were on the menu.

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For the ice cream I just poached the fruit, peeled it and then dices it.  Then I mixed it with sugar and a bit of lemon juice and set it in the refrigerator to release the juices for about 2 hours.  The custard base is simply eggs, sugar, milk and cream.  I whipped the eggs until they were fluffy, added a but of sugar and whipped to blend, then added the cream, milk and reserved peach juice and whipped it again to blend.  Then it went into the ice cream freezer and I processed it until it was almost completely finished, then I added the fruit, processed for a few minutes to distribute the fruit and then put the lot into the freezer to firm.

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For the pie, I used my mom’s age old pie crust recipe which is simply flour, shortening, milk and white vinegar.  The trick as with all pastry is to handle it gently and let it rest.  I dived the dough into 2 disks, wrapped them in plastic wrap and chilled them for about an hour.  I rolled out the first disk, fit it into the pie plate, trimmed the excess dough and chilled it for another hour.  I rolled the second disk into a rectangle, cut it into strips, put the strips on a cookie sheet and put them in the freezer to firm.  While the dough was chilling, I peeled and sliced the fruit, added sugar and a bit of lemon juice and let them sit to release the juices.  When I was ready to assemble the pie, I drained the fruit reserving the juice.  I combined the drained fruit with a bit more sugar, cornstarch, and some of the reserved peach juice.  The fruit went into the chilled pie shell and the lattice top was put on, trimmed and crimped.  The pie was brushed with beaten egg white, sprinkled with sugar and baked until done.

serving

I love how the sugar gives it that slightly over browned edge and just looking at it you know that it is home-made.  The pie and the ice cream were totally delicious and a very welcome end to weekend dinner in the hot summer weather.