Monday, November 2, 2009

Lemon Butter Cookies

Thinking about baking makes me happy. Reading good cookbooks makes me happy too. Actually being able to bake something good makes me ecstatic! :)

That is the case with these little rounds of buttery goodness. Since I love my Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, I went ahead and purchased abother baking book by Dorie called Paris Sweets. This book is different in that there were no photographs of the desserts at all but instead, Dorie shared stories of the different pastry shops where the recipes were born. :)
Since work has been really busy these few weeks, I haven't had a chance to try the more elaborate recipes from the book. So I picked this lemon butter cookies recipe to try last Friday. The recipe is really simple and Dorie's instructions are always very clear. So I followed the directions step by step and I am VERY satisfied with the results. :)

The cookies crumbles pretty easily. They are not too sweet and when you bite into it, it almost felt like they were melting in your mouth. Yumm! I didn't have the book right in front of me now, so I don't have the recipe to share. But if anyone is interested, let me know. :)

PS: the pictures are courtesy of Alvin. :)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Opera Cake

As mentioned in my previous blog posts, I haven't been experimenting much with new cakes lately. I'm leaving my work soon (in 2 weeks, to be exact) to embark on a new journey in life. But there's just so much to do in this last weeks at work and the hours have been escalating. Auditing really takes a good chuck (if not most) of my time and I'm not sure if I'm liking the reality of this. After a very discouraging conference call yesterday morning, I really wonder if I have been giving work more time and priority than it deserves.

As I look around at work these past few days, I saw people giving a lot of their time, their life, and their heart away to work. Pushing themselves very hard to please others, to get the work done no matter what, to (somehow) get a little bit more sense of job security. And I wonder if it's all worth it. I believe that we all have one life to live and I hope that I'm living mine with no regrets. But sadly, I have to admit that looking back at life, there are things that I wished I didn't do and paths I wished I didn't take. :( But I'm thankful for my God who is able to make all things new and who will bring to completion the good works that He had started in my life. :) With that, I look forward to life in confidence - knowing that God is in control of every thing in my life.

I am in good hands. :)

Okay. Now about the cakes. :)

Alvin's cousin had asked me if I'd be willing to bake some thank you cakes for them to give away to friends. After several discussions on the type of cakes, they decided that they wanted something mocha. :)

But I don't really feel like making a simple regular mocha cakes, so I decided to experiment with Opera cakes. I got my inspiration from Joe Pastry and started to build my own components for my Opera cake. For those of you who are not familiar with Opera cake, it's a french gateau that's made of 4 layers of Joconde separated by coffee buttercream and ganache and topped with a layer of chocolate glaze. Since it's coffee + chocolate, I figured it's close enough to a mocha cake. :) I was supposed to make 8 of these, but since work had been demanding more and more of my time, I was only able to make 4 this week. I've got 4 more to make this coming week. Yay! Practice makes perfect.

Anyways, here are the recipes for the components that I used.

Joconde (adapted from Joe Pastry)

100g egg whites (approximately 3 egg whites)
15g granulated sugar
110g powdered sugar, sifted
110g almond flour
3 eggs, at room temperature
40g all purpose flour
25g unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Preheat the oven to 400F and line a 11" x 15" cake pan with parchment paper.

In a clean mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and continue to whip the egg whites until stiff peaks.

In a separate mixing bowl, mix the eggs, powdered sugar, and almond flour using a hand mixer with paddle attachment at medium speed until light and ribonn-y thick (about 3 minutes). Switch to a spatula and mix in the flour, being careful not to overmix the batter. Fold in the meringue followed by the melted butter.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake for about 7 minutes or until the top is light golden brown. Let cool in a cooling rack for a minute and then unmold into a parchment paper. Let cool to room temperature prior to using.

Coffee buttercream (adapted from Alice Medrich)

1/3 cup water
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
8oz (230g) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
2 tbs instant espresso powder dissolved in 1 tsp hot water

Boil the sugar and water in a heavy-bottomed pans until it reaches 242F. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs until thick and pale yellow. When the syrup reaches the desired temperature, slowly pour the syrup to the egg mixture in a thin stream while continuing to whisk at medium speed. Continue to whisk until the batter reach room temperature. Start add in the butter, one piece at a time, until the buttercream is smooth and silky. Pour in the coffee paste and mix well.

Dark chocolate ganache

75 g dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
75 g heavy cream

Bring the heavy cream to boil and then pour over the chocolate. Leave it for a couple of minutes and then stir in a circular motion from the inside out until all the cream and chocolate is well combined. Leave to cool at room temperature until the desired consistency is reached.

Chocolate glaze

150g dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
85g unsalted butter
1/2 tbs corn syrup

Combine all ingredients in a heat proof bowl set over simmering water until the butter and chocolate starts to melt. Take if off the heat and stir until all is melted and well combined. If necessary, put the bowl back on the heat but being careful not to burn the chocolate.

Coffee syrup

100g sugar
150g water
2 tsp instant espresso powder

Bring all ingredients together to boil. Let cool before using it on the cake.

Assembly of Opera Cake

Divide the Joconde into 4 equal pieces and if you prefer, you can brush the bottom one one Joconde piece with melted chocolate so that it's easier to cut the cake when it's done. Brush the first layer of Joconde with coffee syrup and then slather a thin layer of coffee buttercream. Place another layer of Joconde on top, brush it with coffee syrup, and then apply a thin layer of ganache. Place the third layer of Joconde on top, brush it with coffee syrup, and put a thin layer of coffee buttercream. Last, place the last layer of coffee syrup soaked Joconde on top, apply a very thin layer of coffee buttercream and pour the chocolate glaze on top. Trim the sides to get a clean view of the layers. :)

I hope that you'll enjoy experimenting with the cake as much as I do! :) Four down, four more to go!