Charlotte Russe Sundaes with Summer Fruit!

It has been too hot and humid to bake lately.  In Pittsburgh the humidity has been extremely high, so I didn’t even want to put the oven on.  Today it is beginning to cool down a little, so I fired up the oven to bake some Lady Fingers.  These are a French spongelike cake/ cookie, I haven’t made these in many years.  I thought that some fresh summer fruits, layered with ice cream and a homemade sauce would be refreshing.  A typical Charlotte Russe is filled with either whipped cream or custard.  We are going to make a different version of this French classic.  Let’s get baking!  These don’t take long to bake so we can have the oven off rather quickly…….

Orange Lady Fingers

  • 3/4 Cup + 2 Tblsp Cake Flour
  • 3/4 Cup + 2 Tblsp All Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 tsp Salt

Whisk together in a bowl, set aside.

  • 6 large Eggs (room temperature)Separated
  • 3/4 Cup Sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • Zest of one Orange
  • Powdered Sugar for Dusting

Mix the egg yolks with the paddle attachment on high, add in 6 Tblsp of the sugar.  Beat until thick and Ribbon like. About 4 minutes.  Scrape into a bowl and fold in the vanilla and orange zest.  Set aside.  Clean out bowl and whip the egg whites with the wire whisk attachment on high, when whites get frothy add in 6 Tblsp of sugar. Continue to whip until medium stiff peaks.

SAM_0322

Stir one fourth of the whites into the yolks, with a folding motion, which is with a rubber spatula down through the middle and up towards the side of bowl.  Fold in one fourth of the flour mixture.  Proceed with the whites and flour into the yolks three more times.  Be gentle with the batter, we want to keep it light and airy.

SAM_0324

Set oven at 350 degrees, line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Using a pastry bag, I always have disposable ones on hand, cut off the tip to an approximate 1/2 inch opening.  Put some batter into the bag and pipe 3″ lengths about 1″ apart.  I used a quarter sheet pan and piped them six across and four rows on each sheet.  There will be 48 lady fingers in total.

SAM_0327

Dust them with powdered sugar.  They will bake for 5 minutes then change the position of trays, top to bottom, for 5 more minutes.  Let cool.  While they are cooling let’s make some fresh Blackberry Sauce!

Fresh Blackberry Sauce

  • 12 0z Blackberries (rinsed)
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Water

Place all ingredients into a saucepan on medium high heat.  Stirring occasionally.  Let cook for 20 minutes, stirring and smashing the fruit.  Place a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and pour sauce into it, using a spatula to smash the berries to release more juice.  Let cool, the refrigerate.  You can make this sauce in advance, it will last for a week in the frig.

SAM_0333

Get some fresh summer fruits like Blueberries and Strawberries.  Wash them, then quarter the Strawberries.  Set out a half gallon of your favorite ice cream, I went with Vanilla Bean.  Now all we have to do is assemble.  You can have your guests make their own desserts or make them when ready to be eaten.  Use whatever glasses that you have, using a variety of different styles will look great.  Place a small scoop of ice cream in the bottom of each glass, then lay the lady fingers around the inside, more ice cream, blackberry sauce, then berries, and keep building up each layer to the top.  Have some whipped cream on hands to dollop on top.  You will have enough lady fingers and sauce for four desserts.

SAM_0336

They look so pretty!  The orange flavor of the lady fingers pairs well with the different summer fruits and blackberry sauce.  The lady fingers and sauce can be made in advance, so all it takes is assembling them when you want to have dessert.  Since we only have the oven on for a few minutes, this is my kind of summer dessert.  Give these a try at your next picnic, all the recipes can be doubled if needed.

Yes, we can make dessert even in the hottest dog days of Summer!  Bon Appetit!

SAM_0338

Valentine Strawberry Sweet Heart

February is the month when our hearts go pitter-patter a bit faster for our true love!  Let’s make something shaped like a heart and filled with a creamy mousse.  They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, I think this will shoot a sweet arrow right to his/her belly!  Figuratively speaking, of course.  Let’s get started!

Meringue Shells

  • 3 Egg Whites
  • 1/4 tsp Fresh Lemon Juice (most recipes call for cream of tartar, I never have this on hands.  So lemon juiced works great)
  • 3/4 Cup Sugar

Put the whites into a very clean mixer bowl.  Using the whisk attachment whip on high, pour in the lemon juice.  Whip until frothy, then add the sugar, a little at a time.  Whip until glossy and thick.  You may color this with pink or red gel food coloring, if you like.  I used pink.

SAM_0095

Put the meringue into a pastry bag that has no tip in it.  We are going to pipe out hearts onto a parchment lined baking sheet.

Take a glass with a round mouth, the size that you would like your hearts to be.  With a pen trace the circles onto the parchment, you will need to draw four (for large ones, more if smaller.)  Flip the parchment over so you don’t have the ink side up, you will still see the circles as a guide for making your hearts.SAM_0096

Now pipe a heart outline within your circle guide, go around the inside of your border to fill up the shell.  Now go over the outside line one more time to build it up higher.  You can make them any size that you would like.  I think small ones would be great for the kids.

Bake them in a 275 degree oven for one hour.  Turn off the oven and let them dry out in there for another hour and a half.  When they are taken out of the oven and cool, place them in a sealed container to keep them crisp.  While they are in the oven lets make our sauces.

SAM_0098Fresh Strawberry Sauce

  • 1 (16 0z) container of Strawberries (rinsed, pat dry, stems cut off)
  • 3/4 Cup Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup water

Place all ingredients into a saucepan.  Cook on medium high heat to a boil, stirring frequently, let rapidly boil for 20 minutes, keep stirring, make sure to get the sides and bottom of saucepan. The berries will break down and the sugar will thicken the sauce.

SAM_0103Let cool for 15 minutes, then give the sauce a whirl in your cuisinart or blender.  Remember this sauce is hot so be careful!  Put into a bowl, let cool at room temperature, then refrigerate.

Now for my favorite sauce,  CHOCOLATE!!!!!

Homemade Chocolate Sauce

  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 12 0z can Evaporated Milk
  • 12 oz package Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 1 Tblsp Butter
  • 1 tsp Vanilla

Put first three ingredients into a saucepan.  Stirring constantly, cook over a medium high heat, just until it boils.  Take off the stove and whisk in the butter and vanilla.

SAM_0105 Pour into a bowl to cool, then refrigerate.  Wasn’t that simple?  You will never buy chocolate sauce again.  This makes more than what is needed for this dessert, but the leftover lasts for weeks in the refrigerator.  You can microwave this sauce for on top of ice cream, even use this to make hot chocolate.

Lastly, we will make the whipped cream for our mousse:

Sweetened Whipped Cream

  • 1 Cup of Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 2 Tblsp Sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla

Place all ingredients into a mixer bowl, using the whisk attachment whip until thick and creamy.  If you over whip you have made butter!

Take half of that cooled Strawberry Sauce and fold it into the sweetened whipped cream, Wow!  We just made a mousse. Put into the refrigerator.

SAM_0110This can all be done a couple of days in advance.  Buy another 16 oz container of strawberries the day you are going to assemble because you want them to be fresh.  So when it comes to the big Valentine’s Day, we will assemble it right before we are ready to eat.

Assembly:

Take the heart shells and place them on the dessert plates that you will be using.  Place the Strawberry Mousse into a tip less pastry bag, pipe the mousse into the shell.  Slice the strawberries and place them on top of the mousse, I placed them from the outside to the middle.

SAM_0115

You may decorate the top with some more whipped cream,  I had some white chocolate candy discs in the cupboard, so I melted them down and made some hearts.  Place the chocolate sauce and the strawberry sauce on both sides of the dessert.  Use your imagination!  This would be a fun project for everyone to enjoy.

SAM_0117I really enjoyed making them, I haven’t made meringue shells in years.  I will make these shells more often, they can be filled with pastry cream also, or just fresh fruit.  I love the crispness of the shell, then your mouth feels the creaminess of the mousse.  My tastebuds are having a party in my mouth!  I taste the sweetness of the berries, and richness of my favorite chocolate sauce.  When your loved one tastes this on Valentine’s Day, you will certainly receive a big smooch, I certainly did!  Happy Valentine’s Day!  All my Love,  Pastryjane.

Warm Chocolate and Raspberry Custard Cake

I was in the mood for a comfort type dessert, not exactly a bread pudding but close to it.  I had made this recipe up over twenty years ago, I remember having leftover chocolate cake and trying to decide what to do with it.  I had always loved the texture of bread pudding, so this is how this dessert came about.  It is delicious warm, but it ain’t too bad cold either.  Let’s get baking!

You will need to bake off one box of Chocolate cake, pour the batter into a quarter sheet pan or a jelly roll pan.  Because of this being a rather thin cake the baking time will be around 20 minutes.  Let cool.  Put into the freezer to make it easier to cut into cubes. (You can do this in advance if time is an issue)

SAM_0052Chocolate Custard

  • 3 Cups Milk
  • 6 Tblsp. Butter
  • 1/2 Cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips (from a 12 0z bag)

Place the ingredients into a saucepan.  Heat until the butter and chips are melted and the milk is hot.SAM_0054

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla
  • 1 tsp.  Almond Extract

Place these items in a heat proof bowl.  Pour the hot milk mixture into the bowl and whisk until combined.SAM_0055

Cut up the chocolate cake into 1″ cubes, doesn’t need to be perfect!  Place the cake cubes into a 13″ x 9″ pan.  Sprinkle two 6 0z containers of fresh raspberries over the cake.  Then sprinkle the rest of the semi-sweet chocolate chips over that.  Spread them out to cover the cake.
SAM_0056

SAM_0057Now take the warm custard and pour it over the dessert.   Make sure to cover it all and use a rubber spatula to pat the custard into the cake.

SAM_0058

Place into a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes.  Let cool a little while then scoop into dessert glasses or bowls.  Top with vanilla ice cream.  I like mine warm, that way the chocolate chips are gooey.

SAM_0064

So pretty!  So Easy!  This is a great comfort dessert for wintertime.  I love the tartness of the raspberries, the warmth of the chocolate and that touch of almond compliments it all!

This can be made in a variety of ways, change the cake mix to yellow and use apples and cinnamon chips, or change the cake mix to white and use fresh pitted cherries and white chocolate chips. Be creative!  But I am a chocolate lover so I am going to keep it just the way it is.  I know you are going to enjoy this as much as I enjoy sharing this recipe with you!

Happy New Year!!!

Chocolate Candy Cane Lil’ Cakes

It is hard to believe that the holiday season is here!  My taste buds are in the mood for something with peppermint and of course, chocolate.   This dessert is made into eight individual 4″ cakes, which would be super to serve your guests.  They look pretty and festive!  Let the fun begin……

Red & White Swirled Cakes

  • 2 boxes of Duncan Hines White Cake (you can make homemade, but you may be to busy)
  • 6 Egg Whites
  • 2 Cups Water
  • 1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
  • Red Red Gel Food Coloring

Mix all ingredients, except food coloring, by hand with a wire whisk until combined. ( I find that using a whisk aerates the batter, in turn, making the cake much lighter.)  Pour one third of the batter into another bowl and dye it with the Red gel food coloring.  Pour the red cake batter into the white batter and lightly swirl with a spatula. Photo373 Pour into a well greased and floured 1/4 sheet pan.  Tap pan on table to remove excess air bubbles and to level the batter.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes.  Let cool for 15 minutes, then flip cake over onto a work table or another sheet pan that has been inverted.

Mix up a batch of your favorite vanilla butter cream.

Candy Cane Mousse

  • 2 Cups cold Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 1/2 Cup Powdered Sugar
  • 1 box Red & White Peppermint Candy Canes (crushed in a bag with a rolling pin, then give them a whirl in the Cuisanart)
  • 1/2 tsp Pure Peppermint Extract

Put all ingredients into a mixer, using the whisk attachment beat until stiff peaks form.  Make sure to watch over your mixer because if it gets too thick you will be making butter!

Put into the refrigerator.

Photo378

Chocolate Mint Ganache

  • 12 oz bag Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 6 oz Evaporated Milk
  • 1/2 tsp Pure Peppermint Extract

Mix the chocolate chips and evaporated milk together in a bowl.  Microwave for 1 minute, take out and stir.  Put back in for another minute and stir thoroughly.  The ganache should be smooth.  Add in the peppermint extract and combine.  Let cool for about 15 minutes.

Now lets cut our cakes.  I am using a 4 inch round cutter to cut out my eight individual cakes.  You will have enough of the mousse and ganache for 8 cakes, but there will be leftover cake, which can be frozen for a later use.  Cut each round in half horizontally.

Photo376

Photo377

Take the Candy Cane Mousse out of the frig and spread about a 1/4 of a cup onto one side of each cake.  Put your small cake-lettes back together.  Using a cake turntable or an upside down dinner plate, crumb frost the tops first, then the sides of the cakes.  A crumb frost is a thin layer of buttercream first, this will set any loose cake crumbs, then frost the cakes again with another layer of buttercream.  This may sound time consuming but this extra crumb frost step will actually make the second and final layer of buttercream adhere much easier and “crumb-free.”   Lift each cake off of the turntable or plate with a spatula and set each one onto a jumbo cupcake liner, you will want to flatten the liner out so the cake will fit onto it, place them on a tray.  When you have frosted them all, place the tray into the frig or freezer, wherever you have the room, just for a few minutes to set up the buttercream.

Photo379

While those are setting up, we will now crush up one more box of Candy Canes.  Just use the rolling pin, we want the candy canes to be coarsely chopped for the final decoration on top.

Photo380

Last step!   Take one cake at a time out of the frig and pour 2 – 3 Tablespoons of the Chocolate Mint Ganache over the top spreading it with a spatula. Let the chocolate drip down the sides.(If the Ganache seems too thick just microwave a few seconds to thin it out)  Sprinkle the crushed candy canes around the top edges of the cake.

Photo381

What a wonderful ending to your Holiday Feast!  Your guests will be surprised by the red & white swirl cake inside of this dessert.  Their taste buds will be touched by the subtle mint of the Candy Cane Mousse.  Then they will experience the creaminess of the Butter Cream and last, the dark decadent chocolate ganache with a second dose of mint.

Happy Holidays to All…… and to all many a sweet treat!

Photo384

Honey Crisp Dumpling with a Brown Sugar Honey Butter Sauce!

The Honey Crisp apple is one of my favorites, it is only available for a few months.  I love apple dumplings, so let’s take this wonderful fall apple and  enrobe it in a sweet pastry dough.  When they are baking it sure does remind  me of Autumn.  If you prefer a different apple, by all means use that!  Let’s get dumplin’ ing……

Sweet Pastry Dough

  •  1 lb plus 2 oz Flour (2 cups plus 2 Tblsp)
  • 1/3 Cup Sugar (heavy)
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 10 oz Butter, cold and cut up into pieces
  • 3 0z Crisco (6 Tblsp)
  • 3 Egg Yolks mixed with 1/3 Cup water

Put the first five ingredients into the bowl, using the paddle attachment until butter is pea sized.  Then add the egg yolk and water mixture, mix only until combined.

Refrigerate for an hour.

Meanwhile, let’s get our apples ready to be dumplinged!

  • 4 Medium Large Size Honey Crisp Apples
  • 4 Tblsp Butter
  • 4 Tblsp Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tblsp Cinnamon

Peel the apples and cut them in half.  Using a melon baller scoop out the seeds from both halves. (you can use a spoon)Place the butter in one of the halves of each apple and put a scoop of brown sugar into the other half.  Take the cinnamon and sprinkle over the apples.  You can use more cinnamon if you want, I am a cinnamon freak, so I used more!Now put the apples back together.  They will stay together because of the butter and brown sugar.

Take the dough out of the frig, cut it into 4 equal parts.  Roll out each piece into a round, the dough will be over a 1/4 inch thick.  Take one of the apples and place it in the middle of the dough, now just pat the dough around the apple.  This is the fun part, the dough forms great around the apple.  Keep rolling it in your hands so the dough is smooth over the apple.

Continue with the rest of the apples and dough, roll them into some cinnamon sugar.

Then place them on a greased cookie sheet.  Put them into the refrigerator for an hour, so the dough somewhat hardens.    Bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes.  While they are baking let’s make our sauce for these Honey Crisp Apple Dumplings.

Brown Sugar Honey Butter Sauce

  • 3/4 Stick of Butter
  • 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 Tblsp Honey or Maple Syrup
  • 1 Tblsp Cinnamon

Put all the ingredients into a small saucepan.  Stir with a wire whisk until the butter is melted.  Let it simmer on low for 5 minutes to melt down the sugar.  Stirring often.

When the dumplings are done. Put them on a pretty plate and top with the sauce.

With your first bite the crust is soooo… buttery, the apple is soft but not mushy and the sauce gives the dumpling that brown sugar, honey and cinnamon taste that wraps it all together.  I don’t have any vanilla ice cream (crap!) that would be the perfect accompaniment for this dumpling!  Make some tonight for dessert, it is a great way to celebrate Autumn!

Boston Cream Tart

I have not had time to blog lately, I have been working during the day and baking pastries at night.  I will try to have a new blog on a monthly basis.

I was having a discussion about Boston Cream Pie the other day, kind of odd, I know, but my boyfriend insists that it is a pie.  Well it is not!  It is actually a yellow cake layered with vanilla pastry cream, then topped with a chocolate icing.  So I thought why not make it as if it were a pie, the crust will be made of toasted yellow cake and butter……….

So let’s start this Boston Cream Pie, not the cake version, but my version in a tart form!

Cake Crust

  • 1 Yellow Cake Mix
  • 6 oz Butter, melted (1  1/2 sticks)

Follow the directions on box mix, then pour into a greased half sheet pan, or 2 Cookie sheets.  We will be making a crumb out of this, so this is why I am using a big pan so that the batter bakes fast.  This will be done in 15- 20 minutes.

Let cool.  This took no time at all because of the cake being so thin.  When room temperature, crumble the cake with your hands into small crumbs.  Divide crumb onto two baking sheets.  Bake the crumb in a 375 degree oven, stirring twice.  This will take 25 minutes until golden brown.

When the toasted cake crumb is cooled, mix 5 Cups of crumb with the melted butter.  The remainder of the toasted cake crumbs can be used over ice cream as a crunchy treat!

Pat the crust mixture into a 9″ pie pan, pat onto the bottom as well as up the sides.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.  While the crust is cooling, let’s make the cream filling.

Vanilla Pastry Cream Filling

  • 2/3 Cup Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup plus 3 Tblsp Cornstarch
  • 3 Cup Milk
  • 4 Egg Yolks (whisked together)
  • 2 Tblsp Butter
  • 2 tsp Vanilla

Put the sugar, cornstarch and milk into a medium size saucepan.  On a medium high flame,whisking constantly until mixture bubbles and thickens.  Take off the stove and whisk a small amount into the egg yolks.  This is called tempering the eggs, you do this so the eggs do not curdle.  This slowly heats the egg yolks, then you can pour the warm egg yolks into the rest of the custard. Put back on stovetop and continue to cook and whisk until the cream bubbles rapidly.  Remove from heat and add in the butter and vanilla.  Pour into the cooled toasted cake crust.  Cover the pie with saran wrap, allow a small corner to be exposed to vent out the heat.  Place in the refrigerator for a couple of hours to cool.

Chocolate Topping

  • 12 oz Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 6 oz Evaporated milk (half a can)

Put chocolate chips and evaporated milk into a bowl,  microwave for one minute, take out and stir, give it another thirty seconds.  Whisk until smooth. Pour chocolate topping over the cold cream pie.  Smooth over the top with a spatula.  Put back into the refrigerator to set up.  Should take about an hour, or overnight if you prefer.  Decorate with whipped cream or Cool Whip.

I couldn’t wait for it to set up!  I had to try it!  It is so much better than a traditional Boston Cream Pie.  I love cream pies and chocolate, if you do too, you will enjoy this.  The crust is crunchy, the cream filling is smooth and the blast of chocolate from the topping makes this a”Textural Paradise!”  So next time someone says that a Boston Cream Pie is actually a pie, give them this recipe and just tell them that you stand corrected!

HONEY CARAMEL WALNUT BARS

I love nuts!  Matter of fact I have been called one at times!   Walnuts, cashews, peanuts, pine nuts, any kind would be great in this recipe.  What would be the best pairing with toasted nuts?  How about caramel, better yet, a honey caramel.  Let me show you how to make these candy/cookie bars.

First the crust:

Sweet Pastry Dough 

  • 18 0z Flour ( 1# and 2 0z)
  • 1/3 Cup Sugar (on the heavy side)
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 10 oz Butter (cold and sliced up)
  • 3 0z Crisco
  • 3 Egg Yolks mixed with 1/3 Cup Water

I use this crust for everything, I just love the slight sweetness and texture of it!

Put the first five ingredients into your mixer with the paddle attachment.  Mix until it forms a crumb.  Then pour in the egg yolks and water mixture.  Mix only until combined.

Pat into a 10″ x 15″ metal pan, with at least 2″ sides.  Pat the dough up the sides too.  Pierce all over with a fork and put into the freezer for about 15 minutes.  Put into a preheated 350 degree oven, bake for 30 minutes. Set aside and let cool.


There is that visible butter smear.  This is what you want, your crust will be wonderfully flaky.  That is why you do not want to over mix the dough.

Honey Caramel Filling

  • 1 # Walnuts (or your favorite nut, not Uncle Chuck!)
  • 8 0z Butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 Cup Brown Sugar (packed)
  • 1/3 Cup Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Honey
  • 1/4 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream

Warning Alert:  When working with hot sugars(caramels) be very careful, these will burn your skin terribly.

Toast the walnuts on a sheet pan in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes, until you smell them.  This brings out the flavor of the nut!

Put the next four ingredients into a medium large heavy saucepan.  Make sure it is big enough because the sugars will boil up when it is heated.

Put the saucepan over a medium high flame.  Using a wooden spoon to stir these ingredients continuously.  Don’t leave it unattended.  Set up a bowl of ice water nearby, I don’t have a candy thermometer so I do it the old way.  If you do have a candy thermometer it has to reach 250 degrees, also known as the Hard Ball Stage.  The old way to test the temperature of the caramel is to drop a drizzle of the boiling sugars into the ice water.  It will drop to the bottom of the ice water, then take your fingers and pick up the cooled drizzle of sugar.  Roll it together with your fingers, if it feels semi hard to the touch it is ready. When the mixture looks foamy and is rapidly boiling you are approaching “The Hard Ball Stage”, this is when you can do the ice water test.

Take off the heat and stand back as you pour the heavy cream into the hot sugars. It will sputter, so stay out of harms way.  When the foaming has subsided, mix it together with the wooden spoon.  Pour in the walnuts and stir until well combined.

Pour the filling over the pre-baked crust.  Spread it evenly with your wooden spoon or a spatula.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes.  Be very careful taking it out of the oven, remember this caramel is hot!  If it spills onto your skin the caramel will stick and the burn is awful.  I have had this happen to me, I learned my lesson to be extra cautious when working with hot sugars and caramels.

Looking awfully nutty!  A nice golden brown color.  Let it cool completely at room temperature before cutting it.  This will take a few hours.  If you want the caramel to be a little bit chewier, after it has cooled you can put it into the refrigerator for a few hours.

I cut some into bars and some into squares, then cut the square diagonally to make some triangles.  These are a great addition to a cookie platter.  I  also like to use them as a base for an ice cream sundae, put two pieces in the bottom of a bowl, top with ice cream and then drizzle chocolate and caramel sauce over it.

They could be considered a candy because of the caramel, yet they could be considered a cookie because of the crust.  The texture is crunchy from the nuts, silkiness from the honey caramel and a tender flakiness from the crust.  I think you will go nuts over these!