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Sunday, August 25, 2013
Roasted Strawberry Napoleon with Orange Pastry Cream

Happy Saturday, my beauties! The weekend is the best part of the week, don't you agree? Well quite a while back last year, travelled to Paris, and came back with these enchanting ideas for little desserts. My mum still had a craving for the delicious nibbles from France, so she told me to make something with strawberry and pastry. So here I present the Roasted Strawberry Napoleon with Orange Pastry Cream, which surprisingly did not take too much of my time. Personally, I loved this petite dessert, and how all the flavours infuse together. 

  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • All-purpose flour, for dusting
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, from standard package (17 1/4 ounces), thawed
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 14 medium strawberries (about 1 pint), stems trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped pistachios
Orange Pastry Cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 strips (1 or 2 inches) orange zest, from 1 orange
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 large whole egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Orange Pastry Cream:
In a small saucepan, combine milk, orange zest, and 2 tablespoons sugar. Scrape in vanilla seeds, and add the pod. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and cover. Set aside 10 minutes; discard orange zest and vanilla pod.

Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl. In a small bowl, mix together remaining 2 tablespoons sugar with cornstarch. In a medium bowl, whisk together egg and egg yolk; add the sugar mixture, and continue whisking until pale yellow.

Return milk mixture to heat. Bring to a boil, scraping vanilla seeds from sides of pan.
Slowly ladle half of boiling milk mixture into egg-yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Transfer this new mixture back to saucepan.

Set pan over medium heat, whisking constantly and scraping sides and edges of pan. Once mixture comes to a boil, whisk vigorously until very thick, about 1 1/2 minutes.

Remove pan from heat. Using a rubber spatula, scrape pastry cream into a medium bowl; set over ice bath. Whisk butter, piece by piece, into the pastry cream while still warm. Let cool completely. Lay plastic wrap on surface of pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming; wrap tightly. Store pastry cream, refrigerated, up to 1 day.

Strawberry Napoleon: 
Preheat oven to 190°C (375°F). Line a baking pan with parchment paper, and set aside. Have another baking pan, unlined, ready. In a small bowl, combine corn syrup with 1 teaspoon warm water; set aside.

Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour. Roll puff-pastry sheet into a 12-inch square; trim edges. Cut sheet on the fold lines, making three 4-by-12-inch rectangles. Place rectangles on lined pan. Top with another piece of parchment. Place the unlined pan on top of the filled pan. Bake puff pastry 8 minutes.

Remove the empty pan and top parchment, and return pan to oven. Bake until pastry starts to puff and is light-golden brown, about 8 minutes. Remove from oven; lightly brush with reserved corn-syrup mixture. Using a long metal spatula, gently flip rectangles. Brush again with corn-syrup mixture. Bake until shiny and golden brown, about 9 minutes more. With the spatula, transfer puff pastry to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.

Increase oven temperature to 232°C (450°F). Using a pastry brush, coat the bottom of a medium oven-proof saute pan with 1 tablespoon butter; scrape vanilla seeds into butter. Place strawberries, cut sides down, in pan. Sprinkle with granulated sugar, and lay vanilla pod on top. Roast until strawberries start to "slump" and feel soft when squeezed, 10 to 12 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer all but 2 of the berries and vanilla pod to a plate to cool. Reserve juices in pan.

Set pan over high heat. If using Grand Marnier, add to pan, and light a match, carefully igniting liqueur; allow flame to burn out, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium. Using a fork, mash 2 remaining strawberries; add orange juice. (If not using liqueur, add 2 tablespoons more orange juice). Cook until thick and syrupy, 30 to 40 seconds; discard vanilla pod. Remove from heat. Swirl in the remaining tablespoon butter, and set aside.

Combine cream and confectioners' sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer, and whip until stiff peaks form.

Without using a tip, close off the end of a pastry bag with a paper clip or clothespin; fill with whipped cream. Repeat, filling a second pastry bag with orange pastry cream. (Alternatively, use two resealable plastic bags, and cut off a corner on each; an offset spatula can also be used to spread both whipped and pastry creams.)

Pipe a tablespoon of pastry cream onto the middle of a serving plate. Center a rectangle of puff pastry on top. Leaving a 1/2-inch border, pipe orange pastry cream onto puff pastry. Arrange roasted strawberries on top of pastry cream; scrape any remaining juices from plate into reserved sauce. Place a second rectangle of puff pastry on top of strawberries. Leaving a 1/2-inch border, pipe whipped cream onto second rectangle of puff pastry. Sprinkle with pistachios. Place a third rectangle of puff pastry on top.

Using a serrated knife, slice assembled napoleon into 4 pieces. Drizzle with the reserved sauce, and serve.

- Rachel

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Friday, August 23, 2013
Raspberry Pistachio Cake with Mascarpone-Cream Cheese Frosting

I made this cake for my mother's birthday last year, and I guess it was quite an achievement, since it was the first big project I had ever achieved. This cake took me months of planning, sneaky shopping and excuses and three days of non-stop baking, piping and creating. I remember all the problems that arose back then; how I went to pay for the mascarpone cheese and realised that I was 50c short of the right amount, and how raspberries were not in season so I paid almost $15 for a small box of them.

 I guess it was all worth the effort, and I could say that I was pretty proud of the final look. Mum's guests certainly enjoyed it, and I got a few good comments here and there, but I'm really not the type to bask myself in the wonderful notion of compliments, I just like to learn from what might have went slightly wrong in the cake making process.

Anyway, enough blabbering, I'm sure you want the recipe I used!

  • 3 cups flour, plus more for pans
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon raspberry extract (optional)
  • red food coloring (optional, amounts will vary depending on the color you want)
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 12 ounces marscarpone cheese
  • 2 – 4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachios, chopped
Heat oven to 175°C (350°F). Grease and flour two 9″ round cake pans; set aside. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Whisk together milk, jam, Raspberry extract and food colouring (if using) in a small bowl; set aside. Beat together sugar, oil, vanilla, and eggs in a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and smooth, 2–3 minutes. In 3 additions, alternately add dry and wet ingredients to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with dry; mix until combined. Divide batter between prepared pans and smooth tops; bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle of cakes comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes, unmold, then cool completely.
In a large bowl, beat mascarpone and cream cheese on high speed of a mixer until smooth and fluffy, 1–2 minutes. Add 2 cups of confectioners’ sugar, and beat until smooth. Add more sugar depending on consistency. You want it to be stiff, the consistency of icing. Fold in pistachios.
Place one cake upside down on a cake stand, and spread 1/3 frosting over top. Cover with second cake, top side up; frost top and sides of cakes with remaining frosting. Garnish with fresh raspberries & chopped pistachios.
- Rachel

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Sweet Desires: Cakes, Cakes, Cakes

Hi everyone, I'm writing again today. well, I'd like to share with you one of my favourite hobbies: making cakes! I make cakes whenever I feel happy, sad, neutral, bored, just whenever. I guess it's just one of the things that help me relax a little, and I can quite honestly bake for hours without realising that I am tired. I don't know how I do it, maybe it's one of those things where when you really love something, you can do it forever..
So I'll talk you through some of the cakes I've made in the past couple of years and the recipes I used, I hope you like them!
Just a few of the little things I've made over the past two years 
- Rachel
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