Category Archives: Fancy Dessert

DamGoodLemon Icebox Pie

Our extended family is not in the practice of exchanging Christmas gifts now that all of us kids have reached varying degrees of functional adulthood, so we were very pleasantly surprised when a package arrived in the mail right before Christmas from our Uncle Paul and Aunt Anna in New Orleans. It turned out to be DamGoodSweet by David Guas, an absolutely gorgeous book of New Orleans-style desserts. It ground our Christmas morning to a halt, as we got completely sidetracked from present opening by the mouthwatering photography in the book.

Now, I have been in a strange cooking malaise in the last few months, totally uninspired by both the prospect of making food and of eating it. (Not that I’ve eaten less or anything — please. That would be ridiculous. I’ve just been kind of underwhelmed by culinary pursuits recently.) Also I’m not really a huge fan of New Orleans-style cuisine, what with not liking seafood and all. But this book was the cure for both of those problems. As soon as we cracked it open, I was immediately thrilled at the prospect of making literally every singe recipe in it (except the coconut cream pie) — it’s just that gorgeous a book.

It took some serious deliberations to figure out where to start, and in the end, the Lemon Icebox Pie won out.

Zesty

What seemed appealing about this recipe was that it was simple. Last weekend I spent hours and hours and hours making a buche de noel, and I was not interested in anything that would require more than about 30 minutes of effort at a time. This fit the bill. I kind of wasn’t even thinking at all about what it would taste like, so I was in for a surprise.

Assembled Pie

So here’s how you make it:

Ingredients:

For the crust
14 whole graham crackers
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and still warm

For the filling
2 (14-ounce) cans condensed sweetened milk
1 1/4 cups strained lemon juice (from the 2 zested lemons below plus an additional 4-6 lemons)
Zest of 2 lemons
8 large egg yolks

For the chantilly cream
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

To make the crust:
Heat the oven to 325 degrees (F). Break the graham crackers into small pieces and place in the bowl of a food processor along with the sugar and salt. Pulse 8 times, until the cracker crumbs are semi-fine (they shouldn’t be powdery but not in large shards either) and the crackers and sugar are combined. Pour in the butter and pulse until the butter is blended in and the mixture isn’t crumbly and holds its shape when you squeeze it, about twelve 1-second pulses. Transfer the crust to a 9-inch springform pan and push and press the crumb mixture into the bottom and two-thirds of the way up the sides of the pan. Use the bottom of a measuring cup to press the crust into place. Set aside.

Pie Crust

To make the filling:
Whisk the condensed milk with the lemon juice and set aside. Whisk the zest with the egg yolks in a medium bowl until pale, 30 to 60 seconds, and then whisk in the lemon juice-condensed milk mixture.

Place the springform pan on a rimmed baking sheet, pour the mixture into the crust, and carefully transfer the baking sheet to the oven. Bake until the center jiggles slightly, like a soft-setting custard, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 1 hour on a cooling rack. Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap (be careful to to let the plastic wrap touch the top of the pie) and freeze for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Pouring The Filling

To make the chantilly cream:
Pour the heavy cream into the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand mixer). Add the vanilla and sift in the confectioners’ sugar. Whip on low speed to combine and then increase the speed to medium-high and whip until medium-stiff peaks form, about 1 1/2 minutes.

Before serving, wrap a wet, warm kitchen towel around the edges of the springform pan to release the pie from the pan’s sides. Unclasp the pan and remove the pie. Fill a pitcher with hot water, dunk your knife in, wipe off the blade, and slice. Top with a dollop of chantilly cream and serve immediately, or keep in the freezer for up to 1 week.

Icebox Pie Overhead

Now, I only have a 10-inch springform pan, so I made this in a pie dish, which made it difficult to follow the “don’t let the plastic wrap touch the surface of the pie” instructions, but it didn’t matter at all. When the frozen pie emerged from the dead-body freezer, the wrap peeled right off and left a gorgeous yellow pie behind.

And what a surprise that pie ended up being — tart and sweet and fresh and creamy and custardy and smooth and frozen and light and rich and utterly delicious. Spectacularly delicious. Pookie’s gasped response after her first bite was, “This doesn’t taste homemade at all. It tastes like a restaurant dessert!” Boomer’s response was, “I have finally found what I want to ask for as my birthday dessert.” To which Pookie added, “Me too.” I think I might do the same. This is just outrageously good. I think this is the highest deliciousness-to-effort ratio of any foodstuff I’ve ever made. If none of the other recipes in this book turn out well (highly unlikely), it’s still one of the best gifts we got at Christmas!

The Beauty Shot

[Posted by Schnookie.]

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Blog Post de Noel

How did you spend your New Years holiday? I spent mine separating eggs! At least, looking back on it, it seems that way. You see, thanks to a shortage of oven and refrigerator space, I wasn’t able to make the dessert I was planning on for Christmas, so we put it off a week, and had our yule log for New Years. Or rather, our Chocolate-Malt Stump de Noel.

I found this recipe during my usually desultory magazine flip-through when my latest issue of “Food & Wine” is delivered. It’s from the December ’09 issue, and despite being wildly unenthusiastic about food production during the last few months, I was still totally inspired to give it a try. I’ve never had a buche de noel, nor have I ever really yearned for one, but for whatever reason, this stump version spoke to me. So heading into the long weekend, I prepared for making it.

The first step for me was to check, when I got home early from work on New Year’s Eve, whether I needed to be making any cake components so it would be ready to eat the next evening. I read all the active parts of the cake and frosting recipes, neglected to read the “make ahead” instructions about what could be kept for how long before assembly, and decided it all had to be made in one fell swoop. That was my first mistake. But at least I did think to make my meringue mushrooms ahead of time.

Meringue Mushrooms

Having never baked meringues in my life, I did consult a recipe for assistance with this. I’m glad I did, too, because it never would have occurred to me that you pipe the stems and the caps of the mushrooms separately, then assemble them with a tad more meringue and bake until the “glue” is set. I would have just tried (and failed) to pipe mushrooms in one fell swoop, and would have gotten angry, cussed a lot, and declared that we weren’t having a stump de noel after all. So thanks, Joyofbaking.com! You’re a lifesaver! Or at least a stump de noel-saver.

Makin' Mushrooms

So here’s how I made them:

Ingredients:

4 egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1 cup superfine sugar (if you don’t have that, just run regular sugar in a food processor for about 30 seconds)

Instructions:

Using a mixer with clean, grease-free beaters (or whisk attachment), and in a clean, grease-free bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until frothy. Then add the sugar in a gradual stream while still beating on high speed. Continue to beat until the whites are glossy and hold stiff peaks (about 5 minutes).

Position two racks in the oven to allow room for two sheets of meringues, and preheat the oven to 200 degrees (F). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Fit a pastry bag with a medium-large piping tip; I think the one I used was about 1/2 inch. Put most of the meringue into the pastry bag, reserving enough to pipe later as the “glue” in the mushroom assembly (about 1/4 cup), and then get to piping those mushrooms. For the caps, pipe circles about 2 inches wide and 1 inch high, and try to twist the pastry bag so you don’t end up with peaks on the top. If you’re like me and do end up with peaks, just smooth them out with your fingertip, dipped in water. For the stems, just pipe like a little hershey kiss shape, dolloping a base onto the tray, then just lifting the pastry bag straight up. Make more bases than you have caps, because they won’t all work out, and because you’re going to want to eat them.

Bake the caps and stems for 1 hour, or until they are dry and hard, rotating the trays once after 45 minutes. Remove from the oven, and using a pointed knife or toothpick, make a little hole in the center of the undersides of the caps. Put the reserved meringue in a pastry bag fitted with a fine tip (or in a sandwich bag with a fine tip cut from the corner), and pipe a small dollop into the hole. Then fit the pointy end of a stem into the hole, and put the mushroom, cap-down, onto a parchment-covered baking tray. Once they’re all assembled, return to the mushrooms to the oven for about 25 minutes, until they’re set.

After they’re fully baked, you can sift cocoa powder over the tops for decoration, and then either gobble them all up on the spot, or save for decorating your buche/stump de noel. I know it was touch-and-go there for me whether the meringues were going to survive an entire day while waiting for the cake assembly.

Dressing the Stump de Noel

So, New Year’s Day dawned for me with a platter full of mushrooms and the prospect of baking a stump hanging over me. I hadn’t read the recipe very carefully, so I had no idea what was in store for me. When I cracked open the magazine and really looked at it, I realized I had horribly miscalculated how much work was going to go into this thing. There are a lot of steps in this cake. A lot. But with no hockey but the dumb Winter Classic on TV, I decided to forge ahead, and set to separating all those eggs. (Counting the meringue, and the one broken yolk I had, this whole baking affair used 22 eggs. All separated. I don’t think I’d separated 22 eggs in all of 2009.)

In case you don’t want to follow the link to this recipe (again, it’s from the December 2009 “Food & Wine”, just to give credit where it’s due), here it is:

Ingredients for the cake:

1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 pound bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder dissolved in 1/4 cup of hot water
1 dozen large eggs, at room temperature, separated
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Malted buttercream and dark chocolate buttercream (recipe below)

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter two 12-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheets and line them with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on all of the short sides. Butter the paper and dust with flour.

2. In a small bowl, whisk the 1 cup of flour with the cocoa and salt. In another small bowl, combine the chocolate and espresso. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, combine the egg yolks with 2/3 cup of the sugar. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Transfer the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk and beat at high speed until the yolks are pale and thick, about 5 minutes. Beat in the melted chocolate mixture along with the vanilla. Transfer to a large bowl.

3. Thoroughly wash and dry the mixer bowl and the whisk. Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar on moderately high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 2/3 cup of sugar and continue beating at high speed until the whites are glossy, about 2 minutes longer. Whisk one-fourth of the egg whites into the cake batter, then fold in the remaining whites until no streaks remain.

4. In a small bowl, whisk the melted butter with 1/2 cup of the batter; fold this mixture into the batter. Working in 2 batches, sift the cocoa powder mixture over the batter and gently fold it in. Divide the batter between the prepared pans, spreading it out to fill the pans. Bake for about 18 minutes, until the cake feels springy and dry; shift the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking. Transfer the pans to racks to cool completely. Run the tip of a knife around the edges, cover with parchment paper and a baking sheet and invert; peel off the parchment on top.

5. Spread the Malted Buttercream over the cakes. Using a ruler, cut each cake precisely in half lengthwise, cutting through the paper; you should have four 6-by-17-inch strips of cake. Roll one strip into a tight coil, leaving the paper behind. Roll the 3 remaining cake strips around the coil in the same way to form a very wide, short jelly roll. Set the cake on a large plate, spiraled end up. Frost the outside of the cake with the Dark Chocolate Buttercream. Refrigerate until set, at least 8 hours. Decorate the cake with meringue mushrooms, cranberries and rosemary sprigs and serve, cutting the cake into wedges or horizontal slices.

Ingredients for the frostings:

5 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 sticks (1 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1/4 cup malt powder, dissolved in 2 tablespoons of hot water
12 malted milk balls, crushed

Instructions:

In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, combine the egg whites and sugar. Set the bowl over a pot of simmering water and whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are just warm to the touch. Return the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk. Add the vanilla and beat the egg whites at high speed until firm and glossy, about 5 minutes. With the machine on, whisk in the butter a few tablespoons at a time. If the mixture begins to look curdled, continue to beat until smooth before adding more butter. Transfer 1 1/2 cups of the buttercream to a bowl and whisk in the melted chocolate. Beat the dissolved malt powder into the remaining buttercream, then beat in the milk balls.

(For the record, I omitted the malted milk balls.)

Stump de Fridge

The stump was too tall for my cake dome, so I had a bear of a time jury-rigging a foil covering for it that wouldn’t mess up my “artful” frosting.

Whew! That’s a lot of recipe there. Oh, it might not seem like it on paper, but dude. I think I used every single bowl I own. Making the cake batter was almost comical, how the steps just would. not. end. I was cool with beating the egg yolks and sugar, then adding the chocolate. And I was cool with folding that into the egg whites. But dude, the folding in the butter? That’s just crazy! Anyway, after what seemed like a lifetime of tempering and folding, the batter (which was delicious, I might add) was ready to bake, and I was ready to wish I’d made the frosting ahead of time. My recommendation if you try this recipe is to read all the notes about how you can make the frosting up to four days ahead of time, and to have someone else do the cleanup for you.

What I discovered about the frosting part of this project is that it didn’t take 8 hours to set, as the recipe suggests (I let the frosting chill in the fridge for about 2 hours before assembling the cake, and it could have been sliced right away, I think). Also, I didn’t have enough of the chocolate frosting to do much more than crumb-coat the outside of the cake. It barely hid all the cracks. I’m not sure that separating out more of the frosting to mix with the chocolate would be a good idea, though, because there was a perfect amount of the malted buttercream for the filling as the recipe is written. I dunno. My advice is to make more chocolate frosting. As it was, I didn’t have enough on the outside to do any artful fluting to create realistic bark to go with my realistic mushrooms.

January 1 2010

But you know what? I don’t care. I don’t care that my stump wasn’t barkfully fluted. I don’t care that I reached the end of my rope when making the buttercream and didn’t mix in all the butter perfectly. And I don’t care that I didn’t have the recommended rosemary sprigs and used bay leaves to set-dress my cake instead. You know why? Because the cake is AWESOME. I have never made anything that looked this incredible. I am so delighted with it. I love it. When we got out the tripod and staged our stump de noel photoshoot, I was as giddy as if the Devils had just won a huge game. This cake was a total victory for me.

Furthermore, look how cool it looks sliced!

Slice of Stump

I had my concerns when I was handling the cakes that this would be dry, but it wasn’t. It was perfect. As adorable as it looked assembled, it tasted even better. It was a ton of work, with a bit of frustration, but was absolutely worth it. We managed to kick off 2010 with a bang, and so far, it’s been a great year!

[Posted by Schnookie.]

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Filed under Baked Goods, Celebratory!, Fancy Dessert, Pommerdoodling, Seasonal, Special Events, You Don't See That Every Day

Where’s The Statler Cake?

The scene: our local grocery store, after work the Tuesday after Labor Day. It was a long day, and I wasn’t terrifically engaged with the task of meal planning for the week. As I wandered the aisles absently, out of the blue I was struck by the strangest inspiration. I needed to make Waldorf Cake.

September 12, 2009

Back when I was in high school and first started cooking, my one resource was our tattered old Betty Crocker Cookbook, fondly known in our household as “Betty The Crock”. When I was feeling especially fancy and ambitious, I decided to make this Waldorf Cake, which is an angel food cake filled and frosted with chocolate whipped cream. Yeah. Super fancy.

Waldorf Solid

Unlike when I was a kid, I made this angel food cake from scratch. I used the “Dessert Bible” recipe, which I’m too lazy to recount here. That said, I’m never above using angel food cake mix; that stuff is delish.

Waldorf Hollowed

Once the cake’s all baked and cooled, you lop off the top about an inch down, then hollow out a trench around the whole cake, leaving 1-inch walls. The best part about it is that you then get to eat all the tender angel food cakemeats that you’ve removed from the center.

Waldorf Filled

The chocolate whipped cream is nice and straightforward, just three cups of whipping cream, 1 1/2 cups of confectioner’s sugar, 3/4 cups of cocoa powder, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Whip it all up, fill in the trench, try to pack out the air bubbles, then place the top back onto the cake.

Waldorf Topped

Once the top’s patted onto the cake, you frost the whole kit and kaboodle with the whipped cream.

Waldorf Frosted

This cake is hilarious and delicious. It seems so delightfully Sandra Lee to be cutting tops off angel food cakes and slathering it all with whipped cream. And today was especially fun because as soon as I mentioned it to Boomer, she wondered aloud whether this was the cake her aunt made every year for her cousin’s birthday. Any cake that brings on a wave of “growing up in the ’50s in the Midwest” nostalgia is a good cake in my book.

Waldorf Sliced

I am so glad I made this today, because I feel like I’m 16 again and inordinately proud of my mad baking skillz. I should break out Betty The Crock a bit more often to try my hand at silly retro desserts. Ambrosia, anyone?

[Posted by Schnookie]

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Living The High Life, Sabres-Style

So last week our dear friend Katebits reported that she had attended a Sabres game in Buffalo, and in the doing, sat in the really, really, really swanky seats. How swanky, you ask? So swanky that they have waitress service, to bring all the food and drink you could desire directly to you at your seats. Pookie and I have been to literally hundreds of hockey games, and we’ve hobnobbed with the high rollers a few times in our days, too, but we’ve never managed to swing in-seat waitressing. Katebits told us all about how wonderful it was, with the not having to get up and wait in line and miss action while refilling your beer, but the thing that really stuck with us was that her friend Robin had a hot fudge sundae delivered to her.

A HOT FUDGE SUNDAE. DELIVERED TO HER SEAT. DURING A HOCKEY GAME.

I’m not normally a hot fudge sundae kind of gal, but hearing it put that way, I suddenly had to have one. Sure, it wouldn’t be delivered to my seat, and it wouldn’t be at a live sporting event, but we could totally make up for that by being in our pajamas and watching hockey in HD at home.

Sundaes

Coincidentally, Smitten Kitchen had a post about hot fudge sauce just a few weeks ago, so as soon as Katebits tantalized us with the notion, we embarked on a week of planning to build our own sundaes.

Sundaes

We ordered sundae dishes from Crate & Barrel. We arranged our weekend plans around stopping to pick up ice cream at Jann’s Sweet Shoppe. We made a special grocery run to get whipped cream, sprinkles and cherries. We forgot that we didn’t have corn syrup, so had a second special grocery run to get that at the last minute. And after all of that, it took us about 15 seconds to devour our sundaes.

Sundaes

You know what I recommend? I recommend these sundaes. The hot fudge sauce (which I made with Grand Marnier instead of rum, by the way) is so phenomenal that you won’t even notice there wasn’t personal waitress service.

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Wherein We Feel The Need… The Need For Cheese

Whew! What an exhausting week! We’ve been meaning for the last six days to write a post about our marvelous trip into New York City with Kristin, but every evening we’d get home from work and just collapse in senseless heaps on the couch. It’s been rough, and strange, because we can’t figure out why we feel so pooped. I guess it must be that our lazy summer has well and truly ended. If that really is the case, at least we got to send it off in festive fashion, with a photo excursion to Grand Central Station and a long, delicious lunch at Artisanal Bistro.

Lunch At Atisanal September 2008

Our day started at the crack of dawn, as we caught a just-after-10:00-a.m. train into the city, along with everyone else in Central NJ. Seriously, we had to STAND the entire way from Princeton Junction to Penn Station. This made no sense to us, but we managed to keep our complaining to a minimum, and arrived in NYC in one piece.

We had no real plan for what to take pictures of until we got to street level and noticed the Empire State Building.

Empire State Building with Bird

Awesome NYC landmarks! That’s what we’d take pictures of!

And so we wandered slowly to Park Avenue, soaking in the atmosphere of an insanely muggy day in the city, taking snapshots, talking cameras in the manner of three people who don’t really know what they’re talking about, and giddily anticipating cheese. When we arrived at Artisanal, we were greeted by a group of protesters who were trying to impress upon our decency as human beings that this restaurant we were about to enter serves “sweatshop fish”. Which… um… okay? We’re sure that’s a serious problem, and if we ate fish, we’d think twice about ordering at the cheese bistro, but other than that, the event most notably prompted Kristin to say, after we navigated our way through the angry gathering outside Artisanal, “I didn’t realize we were eating at an abortion clinic today.” Heh.

Despite the inhumane working conditions for the fish and/or fish workers producing Artisanal’s seafood, our meal was a total delight. We went for wine/beer and cheese flights, which turned out to be smaller than we anticipated, so we followed that course with the most exquisite grilled cheese sandwich made with taleggio (and a less exquisite one made with cheddar, apples and bacon — it would have been better without the apples), and then had extravagantly, outrageously scrumptious desserts (a chocolate/hazelnut masterpiece topped with vanilla salt, and a hugely boozy baba au rhum). Three hours after we arrived, we hit the road again, slightly tipsy and fully sated, and it seemed the fish sweatshop crisis had passed, because the protesters were gone.

We decided we should spend some time walking a few blocks up Park Avenue to visit Grand Central Station for photo ops. It was at this point that Kristin broke out the TTV devices, letting Pookie get her first taste of it.

TTV Pookie

TTVing is not something that comes naturally, but Pookie was getting the hang of it by the time we got to Grand Central.

Facade of Grand Central

We proceeded to spend ages inside the station, taking bazillions of the same pictures over and over again. But what can we say? We just loved those chandeliers.

Ball of Lightbulbs

Christmas Ball

Light Fixture and Marble

If you want to see the best of the 300+ shots we took, the collection is here, and Kristin’s pictures are here.

We followed our chandelier photo shoot with a desperate attempt to get burritos at Burritoville, but it was closed by the time we finally got over there.

September 13 2008

Sadly, it seems that might have been our last chance for Burritoville. Poor, poor Pookie.

We walked dejectedly back to Penn Station from the abandoned Burritoville, and, sweaty from the humidity, feet aching from the walking, cameras resting from a hard day’s workout, we got back on the train home. Thank god there were enough seats for us, because we struggled to stay awake on the ride home. As soon as we were settled back at Maple Hoo, pajamaed and munching on Hot Pockets on our couch, we started emailing with Kristin to find the next date we can field trip into the City. What a delightful day! (And yeah, shirtless guy at Penn Station, I said “delightful”. You can just suck it.)

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Filed under Away From Home, Dining Out, Fancy Dessert, Pictures Worth A Thousand Words, Worth Selling Your Soul For