This might be my favorite TWD recipe to date. Crumbly buttery dough with flecks of salt that linger on your tongue. A bit of jelly in the middle for a note of acidity. Dusts of powdered sugar for fun and aesthetics. This is one pretty amazing shortbread bar.
The secret to this shortbread’s texture comes from its unusual method of freezing and grating the dough (using a cheese grater). The original recipe calls for rhubarb jam but you can use any preserves you’d like. Since we don’t eat jam or preserves very much, all I had in my pantry was a jar of marula jelly I’d brought from my trip to Namibia last year. It seemed like the perfect occasion to finally open it.
What do you do when you have leftover chocolate custard and chocolate ganache? Make a chocolate tart of course!
I had some chocolate filling and icing left from the chocolate eclairs I blogged about last week, and I was determined to not let anything go to waste. I had also saved up some vanilla and lemon-flavored almond cream from another recipe. Inspired by a recipe that I had tried a few years ago from the lovely book by Chocolate and Zucchini, I whipped up a simple caramel sauce, re-made the pasta frolla from the pizza rustica recipe and layered everything to create this tasty tart.
Since I just kind of threw everything together, the chocolate ganache doesn’t really have that smooth texture typical of more traditional chocolate tarts* (and perhaps the purist would fault this tart for it). The chocolate ganache bubbled up in the oven, the caramel sauce oozed a little but that didn’t prevent tasters from ooh-ing at it.
[Disclaimer: this is not the lemon loaf cake from this week’s TWD. Orange Cardamom Cheese Pound Cake.]
This week’s TWD recipe is an easy-peasy lemon loaf cake. Initial reviews on the TWD blog site seemed mixed; most people found it dry and/or lacking in lemon flavor. Since I had just baked a pound cake not too long ago (pictured above), I didn’t feel particularly excited about this one either at first. But the technique used here is a bit different from other pound cakes and while my first pound cake was fairly good, it was also quite dense and erred on the drier side. So I was eager to learn a different technique as I wanted to achieve a lighter texture while keeping the cake tight as pound cakes should be.
Most pound cake recipes will have you cream the butter with sugar first, before adding in the eggs and finally the dry ingredients. The shape and size of your sugar crystals may actually matter in getting that lighter texture. You see, our leavening agent, i.e. baking powder, releases carbon dioxide as it comes into contact with liquids. This carbon dioxide needs a place to go and that’s where the air pockets that your sugar has made in the butter creaming process come in. When your batter heats up, bubbles form, the moisture from the cake creates steam and the air pockets get filled leading to the seemingly magical rise of your cake. So you need sugar that will cut through the butter properly and create appropriate air pockets. This also means that you need to make sure you start with soft butter and that you cream the butter thoroughly. Adding more baking powder won’t necessarily do you good; overleavening can make the bubbles run to the top and pop, and you still won’t get that wonderful rise.
Last weekend, I crossed my first item off my 30 Before 30list. It felt like a true accomplishment. The recipe for eclairs looked deceptively simple but required much more effort than expected. It’s not just the time needed for each component of the recipe (the dough, the filling, the icing) but also the mental exhaustion from thinking and overthinking about each step. Is my pâte à choux going to rise and puff? Is my crème pâtissière sweet enough, too sweet? Am I putting enough chocolate in the glaçage?
Ever since I started this whole baking experience, my respect for bakers and pastry chefs has been growing by leaps and bounds. With savory cooking you can usually taste and adjust as you go along but with baking and pâtisserie you can’t exactly always do that. I suppose experienced bakers have a feel for what things are meant to look like, and for proportions of sugar to flour to eggs. But as a less experienced baker, there’s only so much you can control and sometimes you just have to trust the recipe, your instincts, your oven.
One of our friends had a small party last Friday night to celebrate the culmination of years of hard work: her PhD defense. I missed the defense as I had to be at work but I heard from others that she did fabulous, so congratulations Lynn!
If you know anything about the world of academia, you know that this is no small feat. So of course, she had to celebrate in style. She’d rented a lovely room in downtown Baltimore and gathered her family and close friends for an evening of good food and celebration. And what’s a party without dessert?