Thursday, 29 March 2012

Citrus & coffee checkered loaf with coffee flavored chantilly cream, and snippets of Switzerland

Week before last was all about enjoying the start of spring in Herr Scherrer's home country, Switzerland.  White snow had given way to a beautiful mix of green, brown and red all around lake Zurich and nearby towns and cities.  The skies were clear blue for the entire time we were there.  It was lovely to enjoy the abundant nature and country side (something we don't get much of in Hong Kong).  We've been making regular trips to Switzerland for a number of years now, and its always something I look forward to very much.  Who knows maybe one day we'll decide to make it home? When there are kids to think of perhaps?

We went to our usual favorite food haunts, e.g. Brasserie Lipp, Schlüssel poulet, just to name a few.  There were of course the must-do visits to Sprüngli and Ladurée and Läderach. Yum yum!

We also spent a few days in Zermatt, where there were still plenty of snow for skiing on the slopes from the Klein Matterhorn and Gornegrat.  As you can see in the picture below, there was not a single cloud in the sky!  

We took lazy drives out to catch sights of the Rhine river, stopping for relaxing bites along the way and just simply enjoying the fresh air and good weather. 

And there were lazy strolls through old streets of Schaffhausen, admiring the intricate artwork on the external walls of buildings.

Upon returning to Hong Kong I made a citrus and coffee flavored checkered loaf cake using fatless whisked sponge.  There is no butter or oil in the sponge recipe.  I paired it with coffee flavored chantilly cream, topped with dried rose petals and crushed pistachios.  The resulting presentation makes it so suitable for Spring, don't you think?

Recipe below makes 2 mini checkered loaf measuring approximately 7" by 3.5" each

Fatless whisked sponge cake:
4 eggs
160g sugar
140g all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 tbls instant coffee powder
grated rind of 1 orange

Coffee flavoured creme chantilly:
320g whipping cream
75g granulated sugar
1 tsp instant coffee powder

dried rose petals
crushed pistachios

1. For the coffee flavored whisked sponge cake: Dissolve instant coffee powder in 1 tbls boiling water and set aside to cool slightly.  Whisk 2 eggs, 80g sugar and coffee mixture in heatproof bowl to mix in the ingredients.  Placing bowl over a pan of hot water and continue to whisk egg mixture till its turns pale and holds a clear trail of ribbon batter on surface.  Remove bowl from pan and continue to whisk till mixture cools.  Fold in 70g flour in 3 batches.  Pour into lined / greased pan (I used a 8" by 8" size square pan) and bake for 15 to 17 minutes in 170C preheated oven until sponge is firm but springy.  Transfer cooked sponge to cool on wire rack.  
2. For the citrus flavored whisked sponge cake: Follow the same procedure above with remaining 2 eggs and 80g sugar, except replacing coffee mixture with grated orange rind.
3. For the creme chantilly: Put all ingredients in a mixing bowl.  Whisk on medium speed till cream is thick enough to spread (slightly more than soft peak). 
4. Assembly: cut and trim each of the coffee and citrus sponge into 9 pieces of 1.5cm tall strips, i.e. 9 strips of coffee sponge and 9 strips of citrus sponge.  Arrange strips to form 2 checkered loaf, using 9 strips per loaf (strips are placed 3 by 3 with longer edge on the horizontal plane - see photos). Ensure the coffee and citrus strips alternate to create checkered effect and fill with creme chantilly between the strips to hold them together.  Using a spatula, frost top and sides of checkered loaf with remaining creme chantilly.  Finish with back of a spoon to create textured surface.  Top with dried rose petals & crushed pistachios (or any other decorative items u desire).

Friday, 9 March 2012

Coffee & caramel mousse cake

I first heard about Hidemi Sugino's book "Le goût authentique retrouvé" in 2005 from Keiko, on her blog.  This was before I knew about his shop in Tokyo.  Keiko is such a talented baker and I've been so inspired reading about Keiko's many creations from Le goût authentique retrouvé.  I've always had a special spot for these pretty multi-layered/textured pretty french-style mousse cakes (or simply entrements as some may call it).  Unfortunately, Hidemi Sugino's book is in Japanese and given he hasn't release an English version since the book was first commissioned in 1998, it is unlikely he will ever do so. 

So fast forward seven years to 2012, a few months ago I was researching into a coffee and caramel mousse cake combination and couldn't really find anything good among all the cookbooks and materials I've gathered over the years (unbelievable as it may sound for the number of cookbooks I have).  I knew Hidemi Sugino had one in his book as Keiko blogged about it before.  Its one called Brésilienne that he still offers it  in his patisserie shop.  Japanese-literate or not, I decided I'll get the book first and think more later.  I knew from Keiko that the ingredients were also listed in French, so at the minimum I would be able to understand that bit. 

The book arrived 3 days later and I was so elated to find it containing many recipes for different mousse cakes and they all look so delicious.  There is so much in the book I can't wait to try.  Although its all in Japanese, there are step by step photos accompanying the recipes.  True I couldn't understand the methodology written in Japanese, but based on the ingredients, it wasn't that difficult figuring out on my own what to do with the ingredients.  The step-by-step photos also help.  

So I finally got to try a coffee and caramel mousse combination thanks to Hidemi Sugino.  And I was truly impressed!  The coffee mousse tasted a little bitter on its own, but when paired with the sweet caramel mouse, it was a surprise burst of flavor on the palate.  The coffee biscuit joconde was also very moist given all the cognac syrup that was added to it, and complimented both mousses well.

The cake ring that Hidemi Sugino uses is almost impossible to find - I had to settle on an oval shaped one which made the cake look like a fat version of his tall & slim model.   I could have also done better on the proportion of coffee to caramel mousse so that the 2 layers are of equal height.  Lastly, I believe Hidemi Sugino uses very little gelatin in his recipes so his mousses are very soft and lovely, which was indeed the case when I tried this recipe, but the downside is it may not last a trip out of the house, especially in more hot & humid weathers.  I will most likely increase the proportion of gelatin next time, especially if I know the cake will need to do some travelling.

Its been nothing but gloomy cloudy days in Hong Kong the past week and I was really frustrated trying to find enough natural light to take some of these photos... hopefully they don't look too gloomy to you.

Continue for recipe:

Friday, 2 March 2012

Passion fruit & milk chocolate macarons

Ever since I tried a raspberry chocolate macaron from Jean-Paul Hévin a couple of weeks ago (they have outlets in HK), I've been reminising the complimentary taste of chocolate with tanginess of the raspberry.  It reminded me a lot of Pierre Hermé's Mogador macarons, which as most of you know is a mix of milk chocolate and passion fruit hence having some similarity in terms of taste from the blend of chocolate with tangy fruit.

Now that I've gotten my own copy of PH's Macarons book, I thought its time I tried recreating these Mogador macarons.  Its probably one of the easier recipes in the book when it comes to sourcing for ingredients.  Passion fruits are much much easier to find compared to exotic stuff like Tuber Melanosporum black truffles or Aceto Balsamico Di Modena, listed as ingredients for some of the more unusual macarons...What can i say, its PH afterall...

I had a little problem with the food colouring though - if you've already noticed from the pictures, my macarons turned out a little more orange than yellow.  I guess I might have over did it a little on the red food colouring =P.  Still, its such a joy churning out bright coloured macarons, just looking at them makes me happy!  And they taste sooo yummy too! 

Recipe below makes about 36 macarons, adapted from Pierre Hermé's "Macarons"

Macaron shells:
150g ground almonds
150g icing sugar
55g aged egg whites (first portion)

approximately 2.5g yellow food colouring
approximately 1/4 tsp red food colouring (adjust this according to how strong the food colouring you're using is, or you could get orange instead of yellow macarons like me!)

For the italian meringue:
- 150g caster sugar
- 37.5g mineral water
- 55g aged egg whites (second portion)
- 1.5 tsp egg white powder (added to second portion of egg whites.  PH doesn't use egg white powder in his recipes in the book but he recommends using egg whites that have been aged for at least a few days.  I tend to add egg white powder to my egg whites if I didn't have the chance to age them enough.  It helps to strengthen the protein bonds that form when you whisk the whites and gives the same effect as using aged egg whites.)

Finish: cocoa powder

Sift together icing sugar & ground almonds in a large bowl. Stir food colouring into first portion of egg whites, then pour mixture into icing sugar & ground almonds but do not stir.
To make italian meringue, bring water & caster sugar to boil at 118C.  At 115C, start whisking second portion of egg whites (with egg white powder).  When sugar syrup reaches 118C, pour it over egg whites, whisking continuously till meringue to cools to 50C, then fold into ground almond-icing sugar mixture.  Spoon batter into piping bag fitted with plain nozzle.
Pipe rounds of batter about 3.5cm in diameter, spacing them 2cm apart on lined baking trays.  Rap baking trays on work surface covered with kitchen cloth.  Using a sieve, sprinkle cocoa powder lightly over shells.  

PH's instructions are to leave shells to stand for at least 30 minutes until they form a skin, then bake them in fan oven for 12 minutes at 180C.  From past experience this doesn't always work for me under Hong Kong's weather conditions, so instead I dry the piped batter for 15 minutes in the oven at 65C, then without removing the macarons, increase the temperature to 150C and bake for 14 minutes.  Either way, during the last 4 minutes of baking open and close the oven door twice to let out steam.  Once out of the oven, slide shells on to cooling rack and allow to cool completely before removing from silicon mat / parchment.

Passion fruit & milk chocolate ganache:
50g "La Viette" butter (or your preferred unsalted butter), at room temperature
275g Valrhona Jivara chocolate or milk chocolate, 40% cocoa solids
125g passion fruit juice

Cut butter into pieces and chop up chocolate.  Halve passion fruits and scoop seeds out with a spoon.  Strain to obtain juice.  Bring juice to boil.
Partially melt chopped chocolate bain marie.  Pour hot juice over chocolate a third at a time.
When temperature reaches 60C, add pieces of butter a few at a time.  Stir to obtain a smooth ganache.  
Pour ganache into gratin dish and press clingfilm over the surface of ganache.  Set aside in fridge for ganache to thicken.

Spoon ganache into piping bag fitted with plain nozzle.  Pipe a generous mould on half of the shells and top with remaining half.  Store macarons for 24 hours in fridge and bring out 2 hours before serving.



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