Raspberry Cream Cake {ModBak}

In last week’s Modern Baker Mondays post, I recounted my first successful attempt at making a classic génoise.

And I promised that if you came back this week, you’d see what became of this wonderful cake layer. Obviously, a cake this beautiful had to be destined for something equally stunning. So I used it to make this show-stopping raspberry cream cake.

This is a special cake for a special occasion. Who wouldn’t feel great about being presented with a cake like this for a birthday or anniversary? It’s just enough work to make it a cake worth saving for a special occasion; but not so much that you should be intimidated about making it. In fact, once you have your génoise prepared, most of the work is behind you.

This cake derives its raspberry flavor from three components: raspberry moistening syrup (which is just a simple syrup with a little framboise stirred into it), seedless raspberry jam, and raspberry buttercream.

This is a classic buttercream with a raspberry purée (seeded raspberries cooked down to a jelly-like consistency) and more framboise added to it. Once you’ve made the génoise, syrup, and buttercream, it’s just a matter of assembling the cake.

I began by cutting the génoise into three layers.

I inverted the top layer onto a tart pan bottom, then brushed it with the raspberry syrup.

I spread some raspberry jam on the layer.

Then I topped it with buttercream.

I repeated these steps with the second layer, then inverted what had originally been the bottom layer on top.

I finished the cake with buttercream, then pressed sliced almonds on the sides of the cake. Finally, I topped everything with some sugared black raspberries.

This cake was amazing! The génoise was light and airy, and the raspberry flavor permeated the entire cake yet was somehow delicate and almost understated. We enjoyed this cake for dessert the day it was made and over the next several days, as it held up really well.

This is definitely not a weeknight cake, but it’s not so complex that you should be afraid to try it. The “wow” factor definitely exceeds the amount of work it takes to make, making this a great cake for any special occasion.

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Molasses Almond Praline Ice Cream {Ice Cream Week}

It’s day 4 of Ice Cream Week, and today’s theme is Nuts for Ice Cream. I knew I wanted to make either butter pecan or praline ice cream for today, and when I started looking at recipes I found this one for Blackstrap Praline Ice Cream on my Pinterest board, so I figured it was a good time to try it.

The original recipe is from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams and was published in Saveur magazine and on their website. Jeni has an interesting method for making ice cream in which she boils out some of the water from the milk and cream and uses cornstarch and cream cheese to bind the ingredients and increase the fat content. Several of my friends swear by her recipes, so I was excited to try this one to see how it came out.

I made a few changes to the recipe, based on what was in my cupboard the day I made it. I didn’t have blackstrap molasses, so I used Brer Rabbit Mild Molasses. My ice cream was much lighter in color than the picture on Saveur, but the molasses flavor still really came through. And I used almonds for the praline (a sin, I know) because that’s what I had on hand.

The base had a pudding-like consistency. In fact, after refrigerating it overnight, that’s exactly what it looked like. It churned up beautifully. My wife and I tried it as soon as it was done churning, and it was amazing. Rich, smooth, velvety, and the praline was outstanding, with its nutty, caramel-like flavor.

But what really blew my socks off, and finally made me realize what all the fuss over Jeni’s recipes was about, was when I tried it the next day. After freezing, a lot of homemade ice cream is too solid and looses that creamy consistency.

But this ice cream was as smooth and creamy as any double-churned gourmet ice cream I’ve ever tasted. And the overnight rest in the freezer actually improved the flavor, too.

OK, so I’m sold on Jeni’s ice cream. I won’t go so far as to say I’ll never make any other kind (I still like egg-based custard ice creams), but I will definitely try more of her recipes. And we might just venture to Chagrin Falls to try some at one of her stores.

Margaret forgave me for using almonds in praline. Hopefully, her Greek friends will give her a pass, too, for making Baklava Ice Cream! And no forgiveness is needed for Rebecce, who made Nutella Gelato.

Ice Cream Week caps off tomorrow with an original recipe, Guinness Stout Ice Cream.

Hazelnut Biscotti {TWD-BWJ}

The first July recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie — Baking with Julia is one of my favorites: biscotti. I’ve made, and eaten, a lot of biscotti. There’s just something about dunking a crunchy biscuit into a steaming cup of coffee.

I used to think biscotti must be difficult to make, but they are actually quite simple. You mix up a quick dough, press it into a log shape on a pan, bake it, slice it, and bake again to crisp them up.

Since I discovered how simple they are to make, I’ve made many different biscotti, including several original biscotti recipes. So, I was really happy about this month’s first recipe — Hazelnut Biscotti.

I decided to make the biscotti on a lazy Sunday afternoon, and I didn’t feel like running to the store. I didn’t have any hazelnuts, so I decided to use a snack mix from Trader Joe’s with macadamia nuts, almonds, dried cranberries, and candied ginger.

The first thing I noticed about this recipe was how wet the dough was. Biscotti dough is usually the consistency of biscuit or cookie dough — soft, but mailable, and easy to shape. The recipe said the dough would be stiff and sticky, but it was downright gloppy. I had a heck of a time shaping the dough into logs on the baking tray.

I knew it would bake up OK, but it was really an unpleasant dough to work with.

It wasn’t pretty after the first bake, but I knew it would slice up fine. I let the logs cool, then sliced them into individual biscotti.

I put the slices on a cooling rack, which I put in the oven to crisp up the biscotti. I liked the idea of baking the biscotti on a rack so the heat can circulate evenly around them to crisp them up.

The best part about these biscotti was the Trader Joe’s snack mix. The nuts, cranberries, and candied ginger gave the biscotti the only discernible flavor. Otherwise, they were quite bland.

Between the unworkably wet dough and the lack of flavor in the finished biscotti, this recipe is definetly not one that I will make again.

Our hosts this week are Jodi of Homemade and Wholesome and Katrina of Baking and Boys.

Pine Nut Macaroons {ModBak}

The next recipe I made for the Modern Baker Challenge combined something I love (pine nuts) with something I’m not so crazy about (macaroons). In my book, macaroons rank right up there with meringues. They have the same lighter-than-air quality that makes me wonder why I bother with them. And like meringues, they don’t keep well, so you have to plan on eating them the day you make them.

Given my lack of enthusiasm and the must-eat nature of these cookies, I decided to make a half batch. I didn’t have any almond paste, so the first order of business was to mix up a batch of homemade almond paste. I measured out 4 ounces of the almond paste, mixed it with granulated and confectioner’s sugars, and beat them together in the stand mixer while I gathered the rest of my ingredients. I added vanilla and an egg white to the dough and stirred it just until everything was mixed together.

I spooned the dough into a pastry bag and began piping the cookies onto the baking sheet. I could tell right away that the dough (which was more like a batter) was too loose, probably due to the egg white. I buy my eggs from a local farm, and they aren’t sized or graded. The recipe calls for large eggs, but mine were probably closer to jumbo. The dough/batter started to spread on the cookie sheet, so I piped the macaroons as far apart as I could.

The final step before baking is to flatten and moisten the cookies (unnecessary in my case), then to sprinkle them with pine nuts. I pressed the pine nuts into the dough a bit, then baked the cookies in a 375°F oven. The recipe said to bake them for about 20 minutes, but mine were starting to smell quite done by 15 minutes, so I took them out.

They weren’t pretty (hence the reason I didn’t take any pictures). They baked together into one big, flat, brittle-like mass. But they smelled good; and they had that macaroon shine to them.

I let them cool on a rack, then broke off and sampled a piece. And another. And another. Then the girls appeared and started breaking off pieces, too. And before long most of the pan was gone. They had a great nutty flavor from both the almond paste and pine nuts. And the shattering crispness of the macaroons was balanced by the slight bite of the pine nuts.

So even though these weren’t a rousing success, I’d like to try them again to see if I can achieve results closer to what Sara accomplished when she made them. Based on flavor alone, they are worth a second go-round.

Cappuccino Thumbprint Cookies {ModBak}

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m not a fan of fussy cookies. My idea of making cookies is mixing the dough, dropping the cookies onto a pan, and baking. Bar cookies are even better, as you get to skip the individual cookie dropping step. So I tend to pass over recipes with a lot of shaping, dipping, rolling, and filling. Like this one.

These cookies had it all, and then some. First, you make the dough, shape it into a square (I put it in an 8×8 pan), and chill it.

After the dough chills, you unwrap it (as you can see, I had a bit of trouble getting mine out of the pan), then cut it into squares.

The individual pieces of dough (all 40 of them) are then rounded, dipped in an egg wash, rolled in ground almonds, and placed on the pan.

Next, you make a cavity in each cookie and then bake them.

While the cookies are baking, you make a white chocolate and espresso filling. I’m not a huge fan of white chocolate, so I made two fillings, one with white and the other with bittersweet chocolate. After the cookies cooled, I piped the filling into the cookies, then sprinkled them with cinnamon.

These cookies were a lot of work, but they tasted really good. To my surprise, I even liked the white chocolate ones. I could see making these cookies again for a holiday cookie tray. Maybe by next Christmas I’ll have forgotten how much work they were.

This recipe is from The Modern Baker, by Nick Malgieri and is part of the Cookies, Bars, & Biscotti section of the Modern Baker Challenge.

Lemon & Almond Tuiles {ModBak}

The next recipe in the Cookies, Bars & Biscotti section of the Modern Baker Challenge is a classic French cookie with a bit of classic French fussiness to it. In case you’re wondering, tuile is pronounced “tweel” (rhymes with “feel”).

Or in my case, rhymes with “fail”.

I love my Roul’Pat for so many things. Nothing sticks to it. It’s reusable and prevents wasting parchment paper. It keeps pans clean and wipes right off.

Unfortunately, it also keeps tuiles from spreading when they bake.

The tuiles are supposed to spread paper-thin in the oven. Then when you take them out, you drape them over a cylindrical form so they take on a Pringle-like shape.

As you can see, my tuiles didn’t spread. At all.

So, what did I do with this colossal tuile failure?

I told my family they were lemon almond cookies. And they loved them.

I might try these again someday, this time on buttered parchment instead of Roul’Pat. Although to be honest, the thought of shaping all those cookies when they come of the oven doesn’t thrill me. And my family was right — they tasted fine the way they were.

Lemon Poppy Seed Drops {ModBak}

This week’s Modern Baker Challenge recipe is a simple, but kind of odd, little cookie. At least I’ve never made or eaten anything quite like it before. The main flavor and texture ingredients are lemon, poppy seeds, and almonds. The dough also contains eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla, flour, baking powder, and salt.

The poppy seeds were the ingredient that seemed a bit strange to me. Other than keeflees, kolache, and lemon bread or muffins, I’m not familiar with using poppy seeds in sweets. And they had a strange effect on the dough — they turned it rather gray. So much so that I was a bit skeptical about making these cookies. After all, who would want to eat a gray cookie?

But I pressed on. After all, with the dough mixed up and ready to go, it was just a matter of rolling hunks of dough in chopped slivered almonds, flattening them, and baking them. I found that the amount of almonds was almost perfect. My last few cookies didn’t have quite as many almonds on the outside, but I also didn’t have a bunch of chopped almonds left over.

I flattened the cookies with the bottom of a drinking glass.

Once they were all rolled and flattened, they were ready for the oven. I was still a bit worried about the color, but I had come this far, so I had to finish them.

I baked the cookies in a 350°F oven for about 15 minutes, until they were golden, slightly risen, and baked through. The poppy seeds were still quite evident in the cookies, but they lost their gray pallor in the oven and actually came out looking pretty nice.

Despite the appearance of the dough, these cookies were quite good. They weren’t too sweet and reminded me a bit of shortbread. The lemon gave a bright flavor to them, and the almonds and poppy seeds lent an earthiness that worked well with the other flavors. And even though they weren’t overly sweet, I found myself reaching for them again and again, as there is just something “morish” (as my mother-in-law used to say) about them.

These cookies would be great for a holiday tray, as the flavor is quite subtle and wouldn’t overpower the other cookies on the tray. Of course, they’re not bad on their own, either.

This recipe can be found in the Cookies, Bars, & Biscotti section of The Modern Baker, by Nick Malgieri. If you want to add a great baking book to your library, this one has everything — from cookies and cakes to pies, tarts, and breads. And the recipes are clear, concise, and easy to follow.

Apricot & Almond Strudel {ModBak}

This week’s recipe for the Modern Baker Challenge was a quick, easy dessert. It consisted of puff pastry with an almond paste filling and apricots. I decided to make this for dessert the other evening about 10 minutes before dinner went on the table. And I had it in the oven before we sat down to eat.

I rolled out the pastry dough, mixed the almond filling with the Kitchen Aid mixer, and drained a can of apricots. I spread the filling over half of the dough, then topped it with apricots.

I slit the top dough, placed it on the strudel, and pressed it in place. I fluted the edges with the back of a paring knife, and it was ready to bake while we ate dinner.

By the time we were done eating, the strudel was ready to come out of the oven.

I set the strudel on a rack to cool while we cleaned up the dinner dishes; then we cut into it.

We all enjoyed this strudel. The puff pastry was, of course, rich, buttery, and flaky. The almond filling was delicious and paired well with the slightly sweet, slightly tangy apricots.

This was a perfect weeknight dessert. Easy to throw together at the last minute, and absolutely delicious. And, hey, it had fruit in it, so it must have been good for us, too!

Fig & Almond Bread {BOM}

This month’s BOM (bread of the month) for the Facebook Artisan Bread Bakers group is a recipe that Nick Malgieri recently developed for his upcoming book. You can find the recipe here.

The recipe is made with a basic, sweetened bread dough enhanced with:

Figs!

And Almonds!

 I kneaded the dough in my Kitchen Aid mixer and added the figs and almonds near the end. In order to get them to mix in better, I first flattened the dough in the bottom of the mixer…

…then spread the figs and almonds on top.

I pressed the fruit and nuts into the dough, then folded the dough over itself several times with a bench scraper.

The dough is minimally kneaded at the beginning and further mixed and developed through several “turns”. After an initial 30 minute rest, I gave the dough its first turn:

First, I flattened the dough on a pastry mat.

 

Next, I folded the sides in toward the center.

 

Finally, I rolled the dough from one of the short ends,

 

...and returned it to the bowl to continue rising.

 I let the dough rise for another 30 minutes, then gave it a second turn. After 30 more minutes, it was ready to be shaped into a boule.

This dough was very nice to work with and easy to shape. And it baked up beautifully. I served the bread for dinner, along with some freshly baked French bread.

This bread was absolutely delicious! The figs and almonds paired well together, making the bread flavorful but not overly sweet. If you like raisins in bread, you’ll like this bread, even if you don’t usually like figs.

This bread really has me looking forward to Nick’s book. I can’t wait to see what else he has up his sleeve!

Raspberry Almond Tartlets {ModBak}

Talk about saving the best for last. This is the final recipe I made from the Sweet Tarts & Pies section of The Modern Baker, and what a way to finish! I would have to put this recipe in the top 3 for this section, right up there with the Pumpkin Pecan and Bourbon-scented Pecan Tarts.

I put this one off until the end, not just because it’s near the end of the section (I tend to make the recipes roughly in order), but also because tartlets always seem a bit fussy to me. I tend to favor full-size tarts and pies, as their miniature counterparts tend to be tedious to assemble. I needn’t have worried with this recipe, however, as it came together really quickly.

Having made the crust the day before to use for lemon lime tartlets, all I had to do was roll it out, cut it, and fit it into the mini muffin pans.

I had planned to make a half recipe of the lemon lime and raspberry almond tartlets, so I divided a single batch of sweet tart dough and set aside half for each recipe. There was a small chunk of dough leftover when I made the lemon lime tartlets, and I had stuck that in the fridge after I made the crusts for those the day before. As I rolled out the dough for the raspberry tartlets, I realized there was enough dough to make more than just 12 tartlets. To my surprise, between the leftovers from the day before and the raspberry tartlet dough, I was able to make 24 tartlet shells.

While the dough chilled in the fridge, I put together the filling, which consisted of almond paste, sugar, eggs, vanilla, butter, and flour, all whirred together in the food processor. Then I gathered my ingredients to assemble the tartlets.

I began by putting a dab of seedless raspberry preserves in each shell, then topping that with either one large raspberry or two small blackberries.

Then I spooned in the filling to cover the berries. Nick says to spread the filling evenly with an offset spatula, but mine seemed to even itself out nicely. I sprinkled the top of each tartlet with sliced almonds, and they were ready to bake.

I baked the tartlets at 350°F for 20 minutes, until the crust was baked through and the filling was puffy and set.

Allowing the tartlets to cool was no easy task, but I left them alone for about 25 minutes, until the pan was cool enough to handle, then I removed each tartlet to a rack to finish cooling. Well, all except for those destined for the dessert plate.

In case you’re wondering, that wasn’t all for me. My wife and I split the tartlets on the plate. But I did sneak another one every time I walked past the table. And I found lots of excuses to pass through the dining room.

I really enjoyed these tartlets. The almond paste gave the filling a wonderfully rich and warm flavor, while the berries provided a juicy, tart contrast. I liked the blackberry ones the best, although I wouldn’t say no to either of them. Which is why I eventually had to wrap them and put them away.

So that’s it for the sweet tarts and pies. On to Puff Pastries. I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

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