Before we talk cake business, I want to share some wonderful and unexpected news with you. Yesterday, early in the morning, I received some news from my friends that Season was nominated as a finalist by the James Beard Foundation Awards in the Best Photography category for Cookbooks. I was shocked to say the least, cried a lot, my hands started to shake when I texted M to tell him the news.Read More
When you have a craving, at least in my mind, you should satisfy it, if not you'll be thinking about more and more and more. Madeleines were on my mind all week, they go superb with tea and coffee. They're exceptionally simple to make and cute. This is a recipe from Julia Child's book which really needs no changing and the only thing I did was introduce new flavors. I've been wanting to play with perfumes more and more this year and this heavenly mix is hard to pin down as one scent so I'm going to go with "scented Madeleines". I used a metal mold that I found at a thrift store in North Carolina many years ago.Read More
Last year, I made a pumpkin flan for my column at the San Francisco Chronicle and this year I wrote about how canned Indian mangoes brought absolute joy to my life in summer for Taste, so it is quite imaginable that at some point I would try to combine both these things and make a mango flan. Summer always involved mangoes from the months of April to late May. My parents would have boxes in their kitchen, where the large ripe fruit, sat on a bed of hay next to each other, carefully protected so they wouldn't bump and bruise. Mangoes were and still are meant to be a delight. My mom's sole duty in summer and part of many our conversations on Facetime revolve around her eating fresh mangoes in India and me struggling to find the whole fruit. Till that heavenly day arrives to my shores in California, I will make do with the canned stuff. The canned stuff is amazing when it comes to using the pulp (which is more like a purée) in dishes where the flavor is important but the texture of the mango flesh is irrelevant. I pick my cans up at the Indian grocery store near my home and they have them year round.Read More
Cannelés are one of those pastries that I love to eat but don't make as often as I'd like to. I've tried to make them in silicone molds a few years ago and the results were consistently not that good. (I've never used aluminum and can't speak about them but check out this experiment by Serious Eats) But a few months ago, M took a work trip to Paris and I asked/begged him to get a couple of copper Cannelé molds from Dehillerin. I fell in love with my little copper molds, perfectly shaped with their ridges just waiting to be seasoned with warm, melted beeswax before they could be used.
So once you have the molds, we definitely need to talk about seasoning them. This is as important as the molds because it will allow the mold to release the pastry with ease. Some folk use beeswax while others a mixture (1:1 ratio) of unsalted butter and wax. I used Dominique Ansel's method of seasoning the molds before they can be used. Try and find edible beeswax pellets because they're easier to melt than the block I have in the photo below (you have to chop it up to bits and then use as much as you need).
The next part is the actual batter for the pastry. You will need to prepare it a day in advance to allow the flour to hydrate and the sugar to dissolve. I've used a combination of cardamom and orange zest which are steeped in the hot milk, eventually the zest is removed through straining the batter and let it sit overnight. The rest of the steps are pretty straightforward. Though Cannelés are best eaten the day they're made, I have found freezing the cooled pastries in a ziptop bag for 2 to 3 weeks to be pretty efficient. You just need to thaw them before and you can also warm them up in the microwave.
cardamom and orange Cannelés - adapted from Dominique Ansel's - The Secret Recipes (Simon and Schuster - 2014)
Makes 10 medium cannelés (about 2¾ ounces or 80 grams each)
Time: 20 minutes one day before (plus 45 minutes if using brand-new cannelé molds); 1 hour 30 minutes the day of
10 cannelé molds 2 inches tall by 2 inches diameter (5 cm tall by 5 cm diameter)
Pastry brush (optional)
Instant-read thermometer (recommended)
Beeswax (for the molds) as needed
1½ cups (352 grams) whole milk
3 tablespoons (42 grams) unsalted butter (84 per cent butterfat)
1 tsp ground green cardamom
1 tsp fresh orange zest or orange extract
3 egg yolks (large)
3 tablespoons (38 grams) dark rum
½ cup + 2 tablespoons (94 grams) all-purpose flour
¾ cup + 2 tablespoons (180 grams) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon (1 gram) kosher salt
Purchasing, preparing, and caring for cannelé molds
– There are several options when picking out cannelé molds, but I would recommend using copper molds. Copper conducts heat extremely well and ensures a crispy exterior and moist flan-like interior as the cannelés bake.
– If you are using copper cannelé molds for the first time, it is important to season them properly. The traditional way is to use beeswax. Preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C) for conventional or 375°F (190°C) for convection. Melt beeswax in the microwave in 30-second intervals. Brush the inside of the molds with melted wax and place them on a sheet pan in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove and invert on a wire rack over a sheet pan to let excess wax drain out. When the molds cool, repeat this process three more times. Seasoning the molds in this manner ensures that your cannelés will have a shiny and smooth exterior. It also prevents them from sticking to the molds. Ideally, this process should be repeated each time you bake cannelés, but it can be done every other time after the first five bakes if the cannelés are unmolding easily.
– Beeswax can generally be found at specialty stores or online at several retailers. It comes in blocks or chips. I recommend chips simply because they are easier to melt; otherwise they are the same.
– Copper cannelé molds do not need to be washed. To clean, wipe with a dry towel.
One day before: Season molds
Prepare cannelé molds in the method described above.
1. Combine the milk, butter, and cardamom and orange zest in a medium pot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from the heat and let cool to about 100°F (38°C), or lukewarm to the touch.*
2. Whisk the egg yolks into the milk mixture. When they have been incorporated, whisk in the rum.
3. Whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together in a medium bowl. Whisk in the warm milk one-third at a time, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl between additions. Some air bubbles will form, but keep these to a minimum. When finished, the batter will have the consistency of heavy cream.**
4. Strain the batter through a medium sieve into an airtight container. Before closing, cover with plastic wrap pressed directly onto the surface of the batter, to prevent a skin from forming. Press the lid of the airtight container on tightly. Refrigerate overnight to rest the batter.
The day of: Bake
1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C) for conventional or 425°F (220°C) for convection.
2. Warm the molds in the oven for 15 minutes before filling. Preheating the molds helps ensure that the cannelés will have a crunchy, caramelized exterior.
3. Brush the molds with a thin layer of melted beeswax. (Too much wax will cause the mixture to spill out of the mold during the baking process.) Gently mix the batter to reincorporate ingredients that may have settled overnight. Be careful not to overmix, or you risk incorporating too much air into the batter. The more uniform the batter is, the better the final product will be.
4. Fill each mold to about ¼ inch (6 mm) from the top, about 2¾ ounces (80 grams) of batter each. When the cannelé bakes, it will rise slightly, then sink, so it is important to leave a small space to account for this rise.
5. Place the molds on a sheet pan and bake on the center rack for 20 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees, reduce the oven temperature to 350°F (175°C) for conventional or 325°F (160°C) for convection, and bake for 35 to 45 minutes more.***
6. Let the cannelés, still in their molds, cool for 10 minutes. Turn the cannelé molds upside down and gently tap the top until the cannelé drops out onto the wire rack. Let cool completely before serving.
It's the last week of the year and my final recipe for 2016! So much has happened in one year, I ate, I cooked, I made new friends and grew up in more ways than I could have ever imagined. As with any year, 2016 was a year mixed with happy and sad emotions. I'm thankful for many special moments too. We rescued a cat and ended up adopting another kitten. I started to write a new food column for the San Francisco Chronicle and visited Canada for the first time. But more than anything, I had many first experiences that I got to learn from. From sampling and learning how to cook better Chinese food at home, making better pastries and experimenting in the kitchen, it was a year of learning and fun in the kitchen and I hope 2017 will offer me the same opportunities to learn and understand this wonderful world of food.
And so it should come as no surprise that my final recipe this year, is one that is full of fun muddled with flavor. This vegan version of dulce de leche is sweet yet not cloyingly sweet with a hint of ground green cardamom and a little dash of brandy for a kick. Serve it warm or serve it cool, drizzle it on cookies, or over fresh fruit. It is marvelous by itself and I'll admit to sampling spoonfuls every now and then.
This is a small batch recipe, so you can easily double the amount if needed. I started out with Califia's almond milk to create this sauce and since Califia's milk is heat-stable, I was able to slowly let the sugar cook with the almond milk and create that toffee-like flavor, dulce de leche is so well known for! Even if you're not vegan, it's worth the taste test.
Here are some of my kitchen tips that you might find useful when preparing this dulce de leche,
- The recipe can be easily doubled to make larger amounts, adjust the amounts of ingredients accordingly.
- Play with flavors, you can substitute the cardamom with different spices such as cinnamon and even swap out the brandy for different liquors.
- I use cornstarch to thicken the final product because it brings the texture as close as possible to the non-vegan version. If you like it a little thicker, increase the amount of cornstarch.
brandied cardamom dulce de leche (vegan)
yields: 1/2 cup (120mL)
1 cup + 1 tablespoon a href="www.califiafarms.com?utm_source=influencer&utm_medium=abrowntable&utm_campaign=nik_sharma" rel="nofollow">Califia almond milk (unsweetened) 1/4 cup (50g) packed brown sugar 1 teaspoon coarsely ground green cardamom seeds 1 teaspoon cornstarch 1 tablespoon brandy (optional)
Bring the 1 cup of the almond milk, sugar and cardamom to a boil on medium-high heat in a medium sized thick bottomed saucepan.
Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and allow to cook for about 35 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally and scraping the sides of the saucepan with a silicone spatula. The mixture will turn to a toffee-like color liquid and will reduce in volume to about 1/2 cup.
Once the mixture has reached this stage, prepare a slurry with the cornstarch and the 1 tablespoon of almond milk in a small bowl and quickly whisk this into the dulce de leche in the saucepan. Increase the heat to medium-high and using a whisk, stir the mixture until it starts to thicken (about 1 minute, it should be able to coat the sides of a spoon). Transfer the thickened liquid, scraping the sides of the saucepan into a clean and dry 300mL jar. Stir in the brandy and cover the jar with a lid, refrigerate and allow to cool for about 4 hours before using.
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Califia Farms, all opinions expressed are solely my own.
I perpetually spend my time looking for shortcuts in the kitchen. Sometimes they're easier to find and sometimes things can get a little more complicated or drawn out than I'd like them to be. When planning a meal for a bunch of people, I usually compromise with this rule - if dinner is going to require more effort, then make dessert simple or vice-versa, I find that this little rule brings harmony to my crazy kitchen and I have time to do a whole lotta other things in life. Some of these things currently include: find time to sign up for a sourdough bread class, plant a couple of trees, pick bathroom tiles, teach the cat to walk on a harness, make the dog meatballs.
This dessert checks all those requirements for me. It's easy to prepare and looks and tastes fancier, it's all about making an impression when it comes to entertaining! You literally take an apple, core it out, then stuff the core with some more apples and raisins and then cook them in port wine. The green cardamom and vanilla bean tie the flavor components of the apples and the wine by giving it a gentle floral and sweet flavor. If you want to make it even fancier, I'd highly recommend a scoop of good vanilla or coconut ice cream on the side. You can grab the recipe here!
The folks at Wolf Gourmet are giving away one of these gorgeous 10-piece cookware sets made from shiny stainless steel and contain an inner aluminum core for uniform heat transfer. Their stainless steel cookware is easy to maintain, foods cook well due to the smooth transfer of heat and they're easy to clean! To enter, all you need to do is leave a comment below and tell me what is your one favorite meal that you love to make every spring and how you keep the preparation simple. Due to shipping reasons, this contest is only open to residents of the United States and subscribers. The giveaway will run for a week and end on April 14th, 2016 at 12pm. I'll announce the winner back on this page and contact them via email. Good luck and happy cooking!
Here are some of my kitchen tips that you might find useful when preparing these apples,
- Use good baking apples that hold their shape well on exposure to heat.
- The green cardamom and vanilla bean are the big flavor boosters in this recipe so skip the extracts in this one.
- Use a good port wine, one that you like to drink.
- If there's any leftover port sauce, I'll collect it in a jar and refrigerate to use as a sauce over plain vanilla ice cream. It's good!
Disclaimer: Thank you to Wolf Gourmet for sponsoring this post and giveaway! All opinions expressed are solely my own.
Last week was the birthday of my dear friend, Cheryl of Sternman Rule. Since birthdays and cakes are synonymous (though I firmly believe ice cream should be too), I thought I would surprise her with a cake when I met up with her for lunch this week (we had Korean food in Korean town in Santa Clara). So I had to hold off on posting the recipe, lest she saw it online before I gave it to her. Cheryl has been busy with her new book, Yogurt Culture and traveling so it was really nice to get some time to spend with her and catch up. I didn't let her see the cake at lunch because buttercream and warm weather are not good together. To protect the cake, I wrapped it up in almost what can best be described as a bulletproof vest of aluminum foil and clingfilm. She wanted to peak but I wouldn't let her.
I can eat a lot of coconut, savory or sweet. And being part Goan, coconut cakes are part of my lifestyle. This particular coconut layer cake has two layers of sponge that have coconut and cardamom infused into the cake batter. The whole process of making this cake from whipping the batter up to toasting the coconut and frosting it, makes for one very aromatic and fragrant time in the kitchen. And if you end up with extra toasted coconut shreds, save them for breakfast to add to your yogurt bowls or even to your homemade trail mixes or just eat whenever.
The recipe for the Swiss buttercream frosting used in this cake is easy and it's also not too sweet. I sometimes find frostings to be cloyingly sweet, so much so that I usually take them off the cake (if I'm eating out). Ideally, I like the frosting to compliment the cake and not take away from it. Cardamom and coconut are two highly aromatic and flavorful ingredients to work with and in this cake they make a happy union, one that's rather tasty.
Also, resisting the urge to eat a cake that's for someone else is hard, very hard!!!
Here are some of my tips that you might find useful when making this cake;
- I used desiccated coconut for this recipe. I prefer to use unsweetened coconut when making the cake batter but for decorating the cake use sweetened. Both fresh and desiccated work well here.
- The swiss buttercream recipe will give you about 3 1/2 to 4 cups of frosting enough to cover two 9 inch cakes and layer them. However, if you want more icing and a thicker coat, I recommend doubling the amounts used for the ingredients in the frosting recipe.
- I use rice flour in this recipe not only to give a tender crumb but also for a smoother flavor. Rice flour add a little nuttiness that compliments the coconut and cardamom flavors in the cake.
- If the weather is warm (as it is here in summer), I recommend chilling the cakes before working with them. Buttercream is easy to work with when it soft and pliable but not to the point where it is melting. I only have one bowl for my stand mixer, hence the recipe instructions require you to wash and dry the bowl between preparing the meringue and the butter but if you have more bowls you don't need to do this. However, there is an advantage to transferring the meringue to a cool bowl, it keeps the mixture cool and won't let the butter melt when it is added to it.
- Since this is a coconut cake, I recommend consuming it within two to 3 days of preparing it. Store it a the refrigerator.
This cake is adapted from the Great Cakes book by Carole Waters.
cardamom and toasted coconut cake
yields: 2 X 9 inch cakes (to form one double layer cake)
for the cake:
3/4 cup skim milk
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (I used desiccated)
2 cups(266g/9.38 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (52g/1.83 ounces) rice flour
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2/3 cups unsalted butter, cubed at room temperature + a little extra for greasing the cake pans
1 1/3 cups (266g/9.38 ounces) superfine sugar (I use baker's sugar)
3 large eggs, cold
1/2 teaspoon green cardamom, freshly ground
1. Bring the milk to a rolling boil in a small saucepan and pour this over the coconut flakes in a heat proof container. Stir to mix. Transfer this mixture to a food processor and pulse 10 times for 20 seconds. Transfer to a container and allow to sit for 5 minutes before use.
2. Place a wire rack in the lower-third of the oven and preheat to 350F. Take two 9 inch circular cake pans, line the bases with parchment paper cut to size and grease them with a little butter. Keep aside until ready to use.
3. Whisk the flours, salt and baking powder three times and keep aside until ready to use.
4. Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and using the paddle attachment beat for 60 seconds on medium-high speed. Add the sugar and continue to beat on medium-high speed for 6 to 7 minutes until smooth and creamy. Using a silicone spatula scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally to bring the ingredients together.
5. Add one egg at a time and beat each egg into the batter for at least one minute on medium-high speed. Using a silicone spatula, scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally to bring the ingredients together.
6. Reduce the speed of the mixer to medium-low and then add 1/3rd of the sifted dry ingredients from step 3 and 1/3rd of the coconut-milk mixture from step 1 into the creamed ingredients. Repeat this with the remaining flour and coconut-milk mixture until the ingredients are completely combined. Add the cardamom and beat for 30 seconds. Using a silicone spatula scrape the sides of the bowl to bring the ingredients together.
7. Divide the cake batter between the two prepared cake pans. Smooth the surface with an offset spatula. Bake the cakes for at least 25 to 30 minutes until the center of each cake is firm and a skewer comes out clean from the center. Remove from the oven and allow the cakes to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then release from the pan with a sharp knife and place on a wire rack to cool to room temperature completely before frosting. If desired, you can wrap each cake with clingfilm after they are completely cool and then refrigerate overnight or up to four days before frosting.
for the cardamom and coconut swiss buttercream frosting
4 large egg whites
3/4 cup (120.48 g/4.25 ounces) confectioner's sugar, sifted once
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks/ 340.19g/12ounces) unsalted butter at room temperature, cubed
1/4 cup cream of coconut
1/4 teaspoon green cardamom powder, ground fresh
1. Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the wire whisk attachment, whisk the eggs on medium-high speed until it just starts to get frothy.
2. Remove the bowl from the mixer and place it over a pan containing barely simmering water. The water should not touch the bowl. Using a handheld electric mixer, start to whisk the eggs on medium-high speed with one hand while slowly adding 2 tablespoons of the sugar with the other hand. Continue to whisk until all the sugar has been added and the egg whites warm up (around 120F). The mixture will transition to a thick mixture resembling marshmallows.
3. Remove the bowl from the pan and return to the stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment whisk the egg white-sugar mixture on medium-high speed for 6 to 7 minutes until it becomes acquires a thick meringue like structure and cools down. Transfer this mixture to a cool bowl and keep aside.
4. Clean the bowl of the stand mixer by washing it thoroughly and wiping it dry. Place the butter in the bowl and using the paddle attachment beat the butter for about 1 minute until it smooth and creamy. It should not be too soft otherwise the buttercream will be soupy. Scrape the butter out of the bowl into a dry cool bowl.
5. Return the egg mixture to the same bowl of the stand mixer in which the butter was beaten (you don't need to clean it). On medium speed using the paddle attachment whisk in 1 tablespoon of the butter at a time, into the meringue. Add the coconut cream and the cardamom and whisk for another 45 to 60 seconds until it is combined evenly. Refrigerate the buttercream for at least 15 minutes before using.
for the toasted coconut and coconut cream syrup
2 cups packed sweetened shredded coconut fresh or desiccated
1/2 cup coconut cream
1/4 cup (50g/1.767 ounces) granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1. Place a wire rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 300F. Spread the coconut over a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Toast the coconut for about 5 to 7 minutes. Watch it carefully to avoid burning. The coconut should be a mix of white, dark brown and golden brown shreds. Remove aside and keep aside to cool completely before using.
2. Heat the coconut cream, sugar, and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and allow to cool. Refrigerate this syrup to chill completely until ready to use.
assembling the cake
1. Line a cake stand with four 12 X 4 inch strips of parchment paper in a crosswise section. Place one of the cakes on top of the lined cake stand. Using a serrated knife make a few superficial criss cross cuts (they do not to be deep, just minor cuts on the surface). Brush the surface of the cake generously with coconut cream syrup.
2. Attach a pastry bag with a #6 pastry tip or a tip with wide mouth. Fill the bag with buttercream and squeeze out the buttercream in a spiral to get an even amount of buttercream. Using an offset spatula even out the buttercream if needed. Then place the second cake layer on top of the buttercream and repeat the entire process. Refrigerate the cake for 10 minutes.
3. Coat the rest of the cake with the remaining buttercream. (You don't need to really do a crumb coat here because you won't see the surface of the cake but you can if you like).
4. Coat the generously with the toasted coconut on all sides and refrigerate for another 10 minutes.