Cronuts at Home

Cronut

According to Chef Dominique Ansel when he created the Cronut he had no clue it would be such a huge phenomenon. He wanted to put a donut on his pastry shop’s menu and figured he’s put a spin on it, thus the Cronut was born. If you have never heard of a Cronut (never heard of it?? Have you been living under a rock?!) it’s a pastry that combines a laminated croissant dough with the shape and cooking process (frying) of a donut.

Cronuts proofing Cronuts6

In his book, The Secret Recipes, Ansel pens down the various creations that made his shop in NYC so popular including the Cronuts. One of the smartest business moves that Ansel did is to trademark the name “Cronut” so now you see a lot of knockoffs out there but none bear that name at least in the US. This is simply a smart business move and he claims that the recipe itself is not really a secret and he lays out a version of it in the book. I’ve made a quiet a few laminated doughs like puff pastry, danish and croissant dough recipes over the years so I was pretty comfortable working with Ansel’s pastry. If you have never made one of these doughs before it might be a bit more of a challenge to get the Cronuts right on the first try. One mistake with my version was not to roll the donuts thick enough in order to get more lofty Cronut.

Butter-Dough Butter-Dough4

The recipe as outlined in the book takes a total of three days, but really most of it is the dough cooling or resting or proofing in the fridge. To make the dough, a hefty square of butter is encased in a yeasted dough and rolled several times and folded. This is done more in the style of puff pastry rather than croissant since the butter block in laid on the dough in a diamond shape as opposed to having its sides parallel to the dough.

Laminated Dough

After several rolls and folds we get a dough with lots of butter/dough layers. When the pastry is fried the water in the butter turns to steam and lifts the dough layers creating the flaky texture that is the hallmark of these pastries.

On the day of frying, I rolled the butter laminated dough and stamped out donut shapes from it. Now, Mr. Ansel does not tell us what to do with the donut holes we get from this process. I was not throwing them away so they got proofed next to the Cronuts. I fried them up as well and rolled them in vanilla sugar.

Cronuts frying

While the dough was resting and proofing, I made the fillings or ganaches. These are very similar to what Pierre Hermè uses for his lovely macarons. They are basically a type of mousse based on white chocolate and heavy cream, flavored with anything from lemon to chocolate and set with gelatin. I like those a lot because they deliver a bright flavor without being overly sweet or heavy. I prepared two different fillings, one with raspberry jam folded in and the other one a simple vanilla bean flavored ganache.

Fillings-Glazes

After frying the Cronuts their sides are rolled in a vanilla sugar mixture. Then the filling is piped in from the top of each one in four spots. This leaves you with holes on the top, so to cover these up Ansel matches a glaze with each pastry that goes right on top. It does not hurt at all that the glaze adds a bit of flavor and looks great too. I created two glazes, the chocolate one went on the vanilla-filled Cronut and the vanilla one went on the raspberry pastry.

Cronuts8

Making a laminated dough pastry or fried donuts at home is certainly not something for an everyday breakfast. Making a pastry that combines the two is not particularly difficult and is really worth it if you have some practice and if you spread out the process. The end result was delicious and delightful. The At-Home Cronut Pastry™ (that’s the actual name of the book recipe) had a beautiful texture and flavors that really shined through. It was a perfect special breakfast for all of us and I will be making them again sooner or later. Maybe sooner rather than later since the kids are already asking for them…

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Steak and Guinness Pie

Beef and Guinness Pie-VegBritish food is good. It could be great. To me, it is comforting, historic, classic and kind of cool in a way. Thankfully over the last few years chefs like Fergus Henderson, Heston Blumenthal, Marco Pierre White, Jamie Oliver and many others are making it a point to celebrate the classic food of Britain. In some cases chefs like Blumenthal are digging very deep (I have a post about that coming up soon) into the roots of historic English foods and modernizing them. That’s exactly what Chef Blumenthal is doing at his restaurant Dinner in London.

This post is not about modernist takes on British food though. When I think of British food something like this delicious comforting beef and Guinness pie come to mind. There’s a whole slew of meat-in-pastry type pies in this cuisine that range anywhere from crayfish to steak and kidney. This particular recipe is from Jaime Oliver’s Great British Food. Oliver actually calls it “Will and Kate’s Steak and Guinness Pie” in honor of the royal wedding a few years back. He puts a few twists on the recipe like including barley and cheddar cheese in the filling. That was part of the reason why chose to give his version a shot.

Beef Shanks2 Beef Stew

The beef shanks from Yonder Way Farms are one fantastic cut of beef. I use them for everything from beef stew to beans and even Osso Buco. They are rich with a lot of flavor and lots of collagen that makes great braising liquids. More often than not, as I did here, I slip the marrow out of the bones and save it for another use. The filling of the pie is a stew with the beef, lots of red onions and some barley cooked in Guinness and beef stock.

Beef and Red Onions

When the stew is done I added in shredded sharp cheddar cheese. This touch is very nice. It makes a savory stew even more so, adds creaminess and substance. While the stew cooked and cooled I made the pastry.

The pastry is made very much like a pie or tart dough but instead of butter it uses suet. Suet is beef fat from around the kidneys. It is very firm and can actually be grated like butter or cheese. No one really sells suet in Houston and I did not want to pay for it online from some source (I might give that a shot at some point to see how different it is). What I do have is plenty of pork lard. So, the suet pastry became a rich pork lard short pastry. It was easy to work with and had a great flaky texture with a deep savory taste.

Beef and Guinness Pie Beef and Guinness Pie3

To serve it, what better and more British side to go with this pie than steamed veg? The key here is to put the vegetables in the steamer based on how fast or slow they cook. I steamed carrots with some peas and some Romain lettuce at the end. These got tossed with a bit of butter, a drizzle of vinegar and salt. They were perfectly cooked with great texture and flavor, a perfect accompaniment to the rich beef and ale pie.

Cheers!

Beef and Guinness Pie-Veg2

 

 

Peaches, Cookies and Bourbon Cream

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This dish has a lot going for it even if the “cream” was not as successful as I would’ve liked. The flavors are spot on perfect and the textures work really well. It is a dish that I’d like to revisit and refine some more. I served this after a dinner of seafood paella to a couple of friends visiting from Florida. I wanted it to be a simple comforting summer dessert with familiar flavors and some refinement.

Poached Peaches2

The blue print here is a buttery cookie base, a Sablè Breton to be more specific, topped with poached peaches and served with airy crème anglaise (custard sauce) and garnished with pistachios. I prepared the sauce using the modern sous vide method from Modernist Cuisine at Home instead of the traditional stove top method. It’s simpler and requires little attention while at the same time pretty much eliminates the room for error that could result in a curdled sauce. To prepare it, a mixture of yolks, cream, milk, sugar and vanilla goes in a Ziploc bag. This is then cooked in 82 ºC water for 45 minutes. I chilled the mixture and whisked it for a few seconds and it is done. In addition to the vanilla I added bourbon to the sauce after chilling. Bourbon and peaches go great together so that made perfect sense. I purposefully did not cook the bourbon to evaporate the alcohol because I wanted to keep all the flavor in as well as a bit of kick.

Peaches-Cream

I wanted the sauce to have some substance and texture on the plate so that it can take on some form instead of just drizzling it on. I added gelatin to the cooled sauce and poured it into an iSi cannister that I charged with N2O. The gelatin is there to give it the needed structure and using the iSi is to aerate and lighten the sauce on the plate. Ultimately I do not think I used enough gelatin in there (that seems to always be the case with me) and the sauce had some structure but not enough to maintain a cleanly defined form on the plate for more than a minute or so. What I really need to do is research a bit more how much of a certain gelling agent is needed to give me a set foam. I have all the resources I need to find this information, I was just lazy here.
Sable

For the cookie portion, I used a recipe from Gordon Ramsay’s Gordon Ramsay: Three Star Chef book for Sablè Breton. This is a slightly sweet buttery pastry that is used to make tarts and cookie sandwiches. Due to the high butter ratio in the dough the cookies tend to spread if not baked in a ring mold. I wanted them to be nice and round. so I rolled the dough into a thick log and sliced it. Then I gently squashed the dough circles to flatten them between the bases of two small (about 3 in. diameter) tart pans. I baked the cookies in the tart pans and then used a cookie cutter to trim them into neat 2 inch circles while they are warm out of the oven.

1-Peaches and Cream

The peaches are the easiest part. I quickly blanched them, peeled them and cut them into wedges. These got poached gently in a sugar syrup flavored with vanilla. To plate I dispensed some of the well-chilled custard into a bowl and topped the Sablè Breton with a spoon of it. I added more custard to the plate and topped the dessert with poached peaches and toasted crumbled pistachios. The flavors and textures were fantastic.

Poaching Syrup Poached Peaches

Apple Mille Feuille with Buttermilk Waffle Ice Cream

Apple Mille Feuille-Buttermilk Waffle

The fourth and final course of our Valentine’s Day dinner is one I am very proud of. It worked so well and was a delight to make, look at and eat that I could not have been happier with how it turned out. Well, like everything, it can be improved upon and perfected some more, but really it was a lovely ending to a delicious meal. It’s a take on the traditional French dessert known as Mille Feuille meaning a thousand sheets, a reference to the many layers of flaky puff pastry. Another name for this type of dessert is a Napoleon.

The inspiration of this recipe is from both Daniel Boulud and Heston Blumenthal. Heston has recipes for a dessert with candied apple and puff pastry in at least two of his books and they look spectacular with layers of caramelized apples, cream, apple confits, ice cream and such. Auldo prepared the version from The Fat Duck Cookbook, simply called Cox’s Apple, on his blog a while ago. More recently I saw a simpler but also very refined version in Daniel Boulud’s  latest book Daniel: My French Cuisine. Boulud’s version is a layer of candied apple confit sandwiched between puff pastry and a layer of whipped calvados cream topped with caramelized puff pastry (aka an arlette).

Apple Mille Feuille-Buttermilk Waffle4

The apple confit layer is simple to make following Boulud’s instructions. Thinly sliced apples are layered with raw sugar to almost fill a small loaf pan. This is then covered in foil and baked until the apples are deep mahogany caramel color. The confit is then cooled and frozen to make slicing it easier. This process works very well, but next time around I’d rather put a layer of parchment in the bottom of the pan or at least butter the pan. This would’ve made removing the block of apple confit much easier.

Apple Confit2

Apple Confit3

I was hoping to make my own puff pastry but really got tight on time with the other dishes I needed to prepare. So, I opted to buy some good quality all-butter puff pastry. The key here is to buy the puff pastry made with only butter, not the Pepperidge Farm crap. I cut the pastry into large portions and baked some on a baking sheet weighed down with another baking sheet to control how much the pastry rises. These were then cut into even rectangles and formed the first two layers of the plated dessert. The third (top) layer was the arlette, the caramelized thin puff pastry. I used Blumenthal’s instructions to help with this one. The pastry is rolled thin while constantly being dusted with confectioner’s sugar. Then it is baked with additional weights on top to keep it on the thin side as it cooks and caramelizes.

Apple Mille Feuille-Buttermilk Waffle9

The ice cream that went with the mille feuille is my own recipe. I wanted something with a tart flavor and almost a bit savory. I knew it would include homemade buttermilk and was thinking of maybe using some yeasted cream as well similar to what I used with this waffle dessert. That’s what brought waffles to mind, specifically yeast waffles, not the quick baking powder ones. I love a recipe for yeast risen waffles from Shirley Corriher’s classic book CookWise that she aptly labels “Crisp-crusted, feather-light raised waffle”. So I made some of that and as usual I used oat flour for about a quarter of the flour in there and used buttermilk instead of milk. I then allowed the waffles to completely dry and crisp in a warm oven eventually ending up with about 100 gr of waffles, crumbled. I soaked these in a mixture of cream and whole milk overnight and then strained them out. Then I proceeded to make the ice cream using my go to method per Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream book. When the ice cream base was cool I stirred in a 100 gr of buttermilk, allowed the mixture to cool in the fridge and then churned it into the most amazing buttermilk waffle ice cream.

Buttermilk Waffle Ice Cream

The cream under the top caramelized puff pastry layer is simple sweetened whipped cream flavored with Laird’s apple brandy. That goes on the plate in a few dots first to anchor the first layer of pastry, then goes a rectangle of apple confit, then more pastry, the Laird’s cream and the caramelized pastry. The green-ish sauce around the dessert is just Granny Smith apple juice thickened lightly with Xanthan gum and it gives the dish a nice fresh apple flavor.

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Plums, Rice Pudding and Almond

Plum-Rice Pudding-AlmondThis is another example of dishes I came up with that I was hoping would be more successful on the plate. I debated if I should post about it or not at first. However, I try to make this blog an accurate “diary” of food and movies  so of course I should post about it. Also, this plate as a whole needs work and refinement but its several components are good and some (the sorbet) are excellent. If I do revisit this dish at some point this post should be a lot of help in making it better.

The basic idea here is rice pudding and fruit. Rice pudding is one of those desserts that I think every culture makes. Versions differ in flavoring but the base of rice, milk and sugar are universal. In Mexico and across Latin America, it is usually flavored with cinnamon and maybe rum. In Lebanon we flavor it with rose water. In Europe you might find it served with a dollop of jam or fruit preserves. In this recipe I went with a combination of both European (rice pudding + cooked fruit) and middle eastern by including the flavors of roses in the plums.

Roasted Plums Roasted Plums2

To prepare the plums I used an idea from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s book River Cottage Everyday and baked the fruit with a mixture of sugar, a couple of vanilla beans and plenty of dried rosebuds. These fragrant buds are ones I bought from a spice vendor in Beirut and are from the same species of flower that rose water is distilled from. They have an amazing heady perfume that works really well with the ripe plums. I basted the plums with the sugary juices a few times while roasting them until soft and a bit blistered. The plums where used for two preparations. First I made that aforementioned nice sorbet. I used an identical process to the one I used for the citrus blossom sorbet a while back. I used another portion of the plums to make a plum-rose sauce. I made a rose syrup by soaking some more of the buds in hot water and then mixed it with a little sugar to make a syrup. The syrup got blended with roasted plums for the sauce.

Dried Rosebuds

Instead of rice pudding that will just puddle on the plate I wanted something more…geometrical. I had in mind a preparation from Migoya’s Frozen Desserts where rice pudding is prepared traditionally and then set with gelatin in a sheet pan. The pudding then can be sliced into rectangles or squares for serving. Migoya also uses a torch to brown the surface of the cubes right before serving. I managed to make the pudding rectangles perfectly well, but the torching step went a bit wrong and I ended up half melting them!

Plum-Rice Pudding-Almond2

I have the rice pudding in place and the nice fruit to go with it. I just needed some texture in the dish. Almonds seemed like a natural for both the plums and the pudding. I decided to make almond tuiles to highlight the nuts’ flavor and bring in some caramel notes to the plate. The idea of having wavy thin cookies also really appealed to me. I made the tuiles using butter, sugar and ground almonds. I baked them in one sheet, spread thin on a Silpat. When they were still warm, I cut them into rectangles and laid those on metal tubes. These then went in the oven again to soften and then cool and set in a wavy shape. They worked out well but in proportion to everything else on the plate they seemed too big.

Almond Tuile Almond Tuile2 Almond Tuile3

To serve the dessert, I laid three squares of the pudding and bruleed (and, in the process, melted) them. I topped these with the sorbet and added some of the sauce. The tuiles stood on their side next to the pudding squares. The flavors really worked well here but again, the plating, those ragged sorbet scoops and the bulky tuiles made this dish less than stellar.

Citrus Blossom, Pistachio, Meyer Lemon

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It’s not often that I get to capture a season, a moment in time or a childhood memory in a dish that I created. This here is one of those though. It might not look like it, but for me, this dessert is pure Lebanese. It captures the beautiful fragrance of citrus blossoms from many a citrus (usually orange) orchard I had the pleasure of playing in or picking fruit from as a kid. What really started and inspired this dessert are the Meyer lemon blossoms from my backyard. The tree is ridiculously prolific and a few weeks ago it was full of very fragrant blossoms and the bees that come with them. Since I’ve made this dish we actually moved (that’s partially why I have not been updating this blog as much as I’d like) from our home of 10 years , the home that both of our boys came to as babies and grew up in. More than just a beautiful and delicious dessert that I am proud of, this now will always be a reminder of that Meyer lemon tree and all the amazing times we had in that house.

Meyer Lemon Blossoms2

Citrus Blossom-Meyer Lemon-Pistachio5

Sorbet was the best choice for the blossoms but I’ve never made that before and was not sure what the best way to capture the flavor would be. I also wanted to make a sorbet with a perfect smooth texture not just a beautiful flavor. After some research using Modernist Cuisine and Migoya’s Frozen Desserts I came up with a recipe that gave me exactly what I wanted. I steeped a couple of large handfuls of the Meyer lemon blossoms in warm not boiling-hot water for about 30 minutes or so. After straining the blossoms out,  the resulting water was intensely fragrant of citrus blossoms and tasted very nice as well. I formulated a nice sorbet recipe (specifically based on Migoya’s “Method #3: Modern Sorbet Method”) using this water, Cara Cara orange juice and a bit of white wine. The actual recipe is at the end of this post.

Citrus Blossom-Cara Cara Sorbet

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I wanted a pistachio component for this dessert. In the Lebanese kitchen a huge number of recipes use pistachios in fillings. They are usually mixed with sugar, orange blossom water and rosewater. So it seemed like a natural for the aesthetic of this dish and for the taste and emotion I was trying to invoke. The Genoa bread (aka Pain de Genes) I made a while back was delicious and had a great sturdy, but not dry texture. Why not try and make a pistachio version? I used Migoya’s recipe from Elements of Dessert  as a base and prepared the recipe with half almond paste and half pistachio paste. This came out wonderful as well and I am including the recipe at the end of the post. In hindsight, I could probably use up to 3/4 pistachio paste or even 100% pistachio paste. As it is though, it was both a lovely green color and a lot of pistachio flavor.

Pistachio Genoa Bread

Citrus Blossom-Meyer Lemon-Pistachio3

The Genoa bread is very easy to make. However, finding pistachio paste is not as simple as finding the Almond version. Almond paste is readily available in my local grocery store. I could order pistachio paste online, pay a good bit for it and have it delivered. Making my own though is cheaper and more interesting. So, I did a quick search and settled on using this recipe. I used all pistachio and none of the almond meal though. The recipe works great even if the end result is not as perfectly smooth as the store-bought version would be. Below is a picture of both the almond and pistachio pastes and you could clearly see the texture difference. The key to making nut pastes as far as I could tell is to blend the nuts thoroughly in a food processor with a liquid hot syrup (around 115 degrees C). Just blending the nuts alone or with sugar produces a nut butter. Delicious, but not what I was after. So, the only change I made to the recipe is to use a food processor to puree the ground up pistachios while drizzling in the hot syrup. Then I finished it by kneading well. The paste looked great and had a delicious flavor. I still have about half a recipe leftover in my freezer. I might use it to make some Madeleins soon.

Pistachio-Almond Pastes

Pistachio Paste

In the Alinea book there is a recipe for flexible chocolate ganache where a mixture of sugar, cream and a few other ingredients is formed into a ganache that can be twisted like a ribbon of sorts. I wanted to go for the same effect but instead of chocolate, I wanted to use lemon curd. The problem is these types of preparations are finicky and ingredients are not easily substituted for others while maintaining the texture. I was ready to formulate my own recipe based on the Alinea version when a quick internet search lead me to a recipe by Johnny Iuzzini for exactly what I was looking for, a Meyer lemon “flexi-curd”. The preparation eliminates the eggs from the curd and uses a combination of Iota Carageenan, High Acyl Gellan, Agar and Pectin to get the desired flexible texture. The process is straightforward even without the Thermomix that the recipe specifies. I mixed the dry gums mixture into some heavy cream and then melted butter is added while the mixture gets heated to 185F and stirred all the time. Then I added fresh Meyer lemon juice from the backyard tree and the mixture is taken up to 212F before it gets poured into a plastic wrap lined square pan and allowed to set in the fridge. When ready to serve, the “flexi-curd” can be turned out on a cutting board and cut into strips. These are flexible enough to tie into a knot and the flavor is pure rich lemon curd.

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The dish definitely needed some crunch. So, I added both crunch, a contrasting color and a different pistachio flavor by making a pistachio brittle. The recipe for this simple confection is straight from the Alinea cookbook. Sugar is heated till it caramelizes and then chopped roasted pistachios and baking soda are added in. The brittle is then poured on a Silpat to cool. I used a ruler to trace some lines on the partially cooled brittle. This made it easier to cut some of the brittle into even rectangles and the rest I just broke into random irregular pieces.

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I plated the dish in a couple of different ways. I think my favorite was cutting the Genoa bread into neat rectangles and topping with a knot of the lemon curd and topping that with a few shards of the brittle. For garnish I had prepared a jar of candied kumquats (they taste great on their own as well or on top of ice cream or thick yogurt), so I used a few halves of those. They just seemed like a another natural citrus element that goes well with everything else. Other garnishes included more citrus; segments of peeled Cara Cara and blood oranges. I just wish I had the forethought to order some Pectinex enzyme. That would have perfectly peeled those segments and given them an even more elegant shape. I also used some pulverized pistachios and a few fresh Meyer lemon blossoms to finish the dish.

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Citrus Blossom-Meyer Lemon-Pistachio

The Recipes

Meyer Lemon Flexible Curd

Adapted from Johnny Iuzzini

  • 75 gr. Sugar
  • 2.5 gr. Salt
  • 1.5 gr. Iota Carageenan
  • 1.5 gr. High Acyl Gellan
  • 1.5 gr. Agar Agar
  • 4.8 gr. LM Pectin
  • 200 gr. Heavy Cream
  • 50 gr. Butter, melted
  • 150 gr. Meyer lemon juice

Line an 8 or 9 inch square pan with plastic wrap or use a flexible silicone pan with no lining. Combine the sugar, salt, Carageenan, Gellan, Agar and Pectin together and mix very well. Start heating the cream in a sauce pot stirring constantly. Slowly pour in the dry ingredients into the cream and keep whisking gently. When all the dry ingredients are incorporated completely, pour in the melted butter. Keep stirring and heat the mixture to 185 F, then slowly pour in the lemon juice. Heat the mixture to 212 F and immediately pour into the lined pan.

Allow the curd to set at room temperature. Once cooled, gently press plastic wrap on the surface of the curd an refrigerate till service time. When ready to serve, flip the curd out on a cutting board and with a very sharp knife (or pizza wheel) cut into shapes or strips.

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Citrus Blossom-Citrus Sorbet

Based on Modern Sorbet Method #3 from Francisco Migoya’s Frozen Desserts

Yield: 1000 gr.

  • Large handful of Citrus blossoms
  • 500 gr. Water (enough to barely cover the blossoms in a narrow container)
  • 222 gr. Sugar
  • 50 gr. Atomized Glucose
  • 3.6 gr. Sorbet Stabilizer
  • 275 gr. Citrus juice (Orange, Madarin, Tangerine,…or a combination)
  • 75 gr. Boiled white wine (Basically boil some white wine for a few minutes to burn off some of the alcohol BEFORE weighing it)

Put the cleaned and picked over (for bugs and such) blossoms in a small narrow bowl or pot. Warm the water to about 110 F and pour it on the blossoms. You want the water to barely cover the blossoms. Cover the bowl and let the water steep for 30 minutes. Stir the blossoms gently halfway through the steeping time. Strain the blossoms out and measure 376 gr of the fragrant water.

Whisk the stabilizer in with the sugar and glucose. In a pot, start heating the juice and white wine till it reaches 104 F. Whisk in the sugar mixture carefully and steadily and keep whisking. Let the mixture come to a 185 F while whisking and hold it there for 2 minutes. Cool the mixture down to about 40 F and stir in the fragrant blossom water. Let the mixture mature in the fridge for at least four hours before churning.

Pistachio Genoa Bread

Adapted from Francisco Migoya’s The Elements of Dessert

Yield: One 8 inch cake

  • 90 gr. Almond Paste
  • 90 gr. Pistachio Paste
  • 116 gr. Eggs
  • 16 gr. Trimoline
  • 1.5 gr. Salt
  • 28 gr. All purpose Flour
  • 51 gr. Butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray an 8 inch square pan with baking spray (Pam for Baking is what I like to use).

Combine the the almond and pistachio pastes in a bowl and mix with a handheld mixer to get a homogenous mixture. Add the eggs a bit at a time and mix well. Add the Trimoline and and salt and mix to incorporate completely. Add the flour and mix slowly until just combined. Add the butter and also mix until just combined.

Put the mixture in the prepared pan and smooth the top evenly. Bake until the cake springs back when gently pressed, about 15 minutes. Cool the cake to room temperature and then refrigerate. It cuts much cleaner once cold.

French Laundry: ‘Coffee and Donuts’

Coffee and Donuts3

Yeah, foam is a crazy new fad. Afterall, no chef was making any food with “foam” ten or 50 years ago. Right? Well, no. Wrong. Foam in cooking, baking and beverages is everywhere. Sometimes it is obvious like a nice froth on a cappuccino. Other times, like in this dessert, it’s a bit less recognizable. This dessert (part 2 of my French Laundry meal) is composed of several foams. Five types to be precise. As the name suggest and the picture shows this is a sort of coffee with a nice froth on it served alongside some perfect donuts. This is a classic French Laundry dessert that is much more than it seems.

Donuts-Sugar

The coffee part is actually a coffee semifreddo topped with steamed frothy milk to give it a traditional cappuccino look. Semifreddo literally means semi-frozen or half frozen and it is a very traditional Italian dessert made by mixing three foams. A custard foam made from egg yolks, sugar and flavored with instant espresso powder is mixed with stiff-whipped sweetened cream and a simple meringue (whipped egg whites and sugar). The three are gently folded together and portioned out into small coffee cups and then frozen. The frozen product has a wonderful smooth rich texture similar to frozen mousse. It is allowed to warm up for a few minutes and then it is topped with hot frothy milk. The effect is both lovely to look at and just delicious with the fantastic juxtaposition of hot and cold.

Semifreddo1

Bread and cakes are filled with air bubbles. They are also a type of foam that we bake, steam or fry to trap those air bubbles. As the air in those bubbles heats up it expands  producing airy products that are at the same time light and sturdy. These donuts belong to the category of yeast-risen doughs as opposed to cake donuts which are a quick bread leavened chemically with baking soda and baking powder. Chef Keller’s donuts are rich and almost like a brioche dough. they are made with flour, sugar, eggs and butter. After I made the dough I put it in the fridge to allow it to rise slowly and develop flavor. A couple of hours before frying, I rolled the dough and cut it into 2-inch rounds and then used a much smaller round cutter and punched holes in those rounds to get both donuts and donut holes.

Coffee and Donuts-Horz

When ready to serve, I fried the donuts and holes. It’s really neat seeing them go in the oil then bob up when they puff with the heat. While they are still hot, I rolled them in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar and plated a donut and a donut hole alongside the “coffee”. The combination, just like the braised pork cheek dish that preceded it, is comforting, familiar and refined. The semifreddo gets soft enough to even dunk the donuts in it. I highly recommend you do that if you decide to try making this. The recipe makes a good bit of donuts and that’s a good thing because one is not enough.

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