Friday, December 31, 2010

Cardamom and Pear Bavarian Cream Cake

Happy Birthday (ahem, a little belated) to my sister Rachael!  She's always been the silly, cheeky one, while me the quiet one with a inner closet cheeky personality waiting to jump out.  She's the one who has the sweet sweet smile that I wish I have.  However, do not let that fool you, for she has a little devilish personality that's waiting to prank you if you're not careful.  I know it because I've been the victim of the pranks more times than I can count.  I love you regardless, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY AGAIN!   And HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!!

Mmmph!  Having a mouth full of this baby had me closing my eyes, and going off to dreamy land for a moment.  At the first bite, you get blasted with the flavor of cardamom in the soft creamy Bavarian cream, followed by a subtle pear and orange combination from the pear slices and orange chiffon cake.  I melted alright!  It was just how I dreamed for it to be.  If I were standing, I would have done a Snoopy dance around the room.  Although, on second thought, it's a good thing I was sitting down, for I went weak in my knees eating this baby up.

I was introduced to cardamom the spice earlier this year by a friend who has recently moved back to India.  I miss you guys!  I think it was love at first sight for me with cardamom.  I've been dreaming of this cake for a couple months now.  Finally I got down to pencil and paper, scribbled out the recipe and then, all that's left was for the director in me to yell: "ACTION!"

I've been planning on getting the cake done for a party this weekend, but decided to try it out first and bring Black Forest Cake instead to the party.  After trying this cake, I decided that it's too good to keep it to myself and I just gotta gotta gotta share this with my friends.  Before they get to eat it though, you guys get to see it here! :D

1- Gently crush the cardamom pods with the butt of a knife or in a mortar and pestle to release the flavorful seeds.
2- Before slicing the cake rounds, it helps to have a ruler and toothpicks around. Measure about 1/2 inch thickness and insert a toothpick into the cake as a marker.  Then using a sharp knife, or a serrated utility knife, cut the cake into rounds just right above the marker.
3- If you are new to cutting cake rounds, wrap the cake tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for about 12 hours before slicing.  This helps to harden the cake, and thus making the cutting action easier.
4- If you soak the pear rounds in salt water mixture, remember to rinse and pat dry quickly before cooking in milk.
5- If you don't have a plastic cake wrap, makeshift with a strip of parchment paper of at least 2"x20".  You can use clear tape to tape shorter pieces together.  Otherwise, use a 9" cake tin or spring-form cake pan for this purpose.
6- You can omit using the raspberries for decoration if you prefer.

Special thanks to Helene of Tartelette for her advise and recipe which I altered for the cardamom.

Cardamom and Pear Bavarian Cream Cake

2 D'Anjou Pears (one sliced into rounds, and the other sliced into thin wedges for decoration)
1 tbsp salt
1 cup water

1 9-inch orange chiffon cake (Recipe here)
6-12 raspberries for decoration
1 strip of plastic cake wrap, at least 2 inches high and 20 inches long

4 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1-1/4 cup milk
2-3 cardamom pods, roughly crushed open
1 tbsp gelatine in 1/8 cup water
1 cup heavy cream

Cake preparation:
Cut orange chiffon cake into 1/2-inch thick rounds.
Reserve 2 rounds for this cake, and store the rest of the cake for another purpose.
Pear preparation:
Slice the pears into rounds and thin wedges.
Soak the wedges in water and salt mixture to stop it from turning brown.
Use the pear rounds immediately, otherwise, soak it in the salt water mixture until needed.

Bavarian Cream preparation:
Whisk egg yolks and sugar until very pale.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, bring the milk and cardamom pods to a boil over medium heat.
While the milk is warming up, place the sliced pear rounds into the milk for about 3 minutes, or until it looked slightly transparent.
Remove the pears from the milk.
When the milk boils, strain out the cardamom and measure out 1 cup of milk.
Continue beating the egg yolk mixture as you slowly pour the hot milk over the yolk.
Pour this yolk mixture back into the saucepan, and cook over low-medium heat until it coats the back of a spoon.
Remove the yolk mixture from heat and stir in the softened gelatine until it has completely melted.
Leave the yolk mixture to cool back down to room temperature.
Meanwhile, whip the heavy cream to soft peak, and fold it into the yolk mixture.
Cake assembly:
Place one 1/2-inch thick cake round on a large, flat plate.
Wrap the plastic cake wrap around the cake as tight as you can without smooshing the cake up.
Tape the plastic cake wrap together with a small piece of clear tape.
Before pouring the cream, reserve about 1 cup of the cream for later use.
Pour about 1/2 inch thick layer of the Bavarian cream onto the cake.
Place the raspberries against the plastic cake wrap.
Place a layer of sliced pear rounds on the cream.
Fill the cream to about 1 inch thick, and place another layer of sliced pear rounds on the cream.
Fill with the rest of the cream (not the reserved one cup)
Gently push in the other layer of the cake round on top of the cream.
Jiggle a little to push out the air and flatten it against the cream.
Using a spatula, spread the reserved, 1-cup Bavarian cream over the cake.
Arrange the pear wedges into a circular fan around the cake.
Chill the cake for at least 4 hours or until set.
Finally, cut up a slice and go "mmmm..." with your eyes closed, and join me in dreamy land.

Enjoy and here's to wishing all a Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Chocolate Lemon Shortbread Cookies

Come December time, my kitchen often looks like a tornado just torn through it.  Well, at least that's how my darling hubby describes it.  Feels like it.  Looks like it.  I guess you can call it so.  Except, I'd like to call it my Tasmanian Devil just torn through the kitchen days.  This year, the days of destruction is less than last year's.  Mainly because for the last week or two, I've had to take out 3 of my teeth, and hadn't been able to eat whatever I want.  Baking up a storm doesn't help in a sense that I'd get to see but not eat.  So I did not bake much, until this week that is.  The Tasmanian devil has torn through my kitchen again.  Flour, castor sugar, powdered sugar, chocolate bits, melted chocolate, rolling pin, parchment papers...  Yup!  They covered my kitchen workspace alright.

One of my favorite website for looking up recipes is Joy of Baking.  I haven't really played with cookies until last year.  Yeah, I know, what was I thinking.  I guess I was going crazy with cakes?  Eeehhh...  So, anyway, last year I decided to bake a batch of little somethings for our friends and hubby's colleagues, and so I found something easy from the Joy of Baking website to start me off.  

This year, that was where I started my search as well. I started off with their recipe for shortbread cookies, but decided that it needs a little more "oomph" to it.  So, I ended up whipping up a lemon icing for the cookies.  YAY!  The lemon icing gives the slightly sweet cookie an edge of tartness.  Just perfect!  If you try this, do let me know how you like it ^.^

1- You can prepare the dough ahead of time.  Wrapping it tightly then freezing it allows you to make your cookies anytime you want.  When you want to bake it, just leave the dough out at room temperature for about 5-10 minutes before rolling out and baking.
2- Playing: Dip the whole thing in chocolate, or the whole thing in lemon icing.  Hey, it's up to your own liking right? :)
3- When mixing the flour for the cookies, try not to over mix.  Slightly crumbly is okay, as long as you don't see flour pockets.  This will help improve the crispiness of the cookie.
4- I find that rolling out your dough between two sheets of parchment/wax papers is easier for me.

Chocolate Lemon Shortbread Cookies
Shortbread Cookies (recipes adapted from Joy of Baking)
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into smaller pieces
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt

Using a paddle beater on your mixer, beat the butter until creamy and smooth.
Add in sugar and continue beating until smooth.
Add in vanilla extract and beat until well combined.
Add in the flour and mix until just combined.
Flatten out the dough to about 1 inch thickness on a plastic wrap.
Wrap it up tightly, and chill for at least an hour.
***At this point, you can freeze it until you need to bake***
Line two baking sheets with parchment papers.
Roll the dough between two sheets of parchment paper (wax paper works too) into 1/4 inch thickness.
Cut out your cookies with a cookie cutter, and line them up on your baking sheets.
Collect the rest of the dough into a ball, then repeat the rolling out and cutting until all the dough has been used.
Place your cut-out cookies in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to help firm the dough before baking.  This will help the cookies to retain the shapes better.
Preheat the oven to 325°F (177°C) while the cookies are chilling.
Bake for about 8-12 minutes until lightly browned.
Remove from the oven, and cool on a cooling rack.

Chocolate Dip
 3/4 cup (4-5 oz) semi-sweet or bitter sweet chocolate, finely chopped
Place the chopped chocolates in a microwavable bowl.
Microwave on medium heat setting for 30 seconds.
Remove the bowl and stir.
Place the bowl back into the microwave for another 30 seconds, and repeat until you have a smooth melted chocolate.
At a 45° angle, dip half of the face of the shape in the melted chocolate.
Place it on a parchment paper to cool, about 10-15 minutes.  If you live in warmer climates, do cool them in the refrigerator.

Lemon Icing
1 cup powdered sugar
2-1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest

Place all ingredients in a small bowl, and gently whisk with a fork until you have a smooth glaze that is thick, but pourable.
Dip the other half of the cookie, also at 45° angle, into the lemon icing.
Place it on a parchment paper to set, also about 10-15 minutes.

Good luck!  If you're traveling over the holidays season, do be safe.  Happy Holidays!