Friday, April 29, 2011

Joconde Imprime !!!


Joconde Imprime (Vathsal, my husband, calls is Anaconda!) is a fancy French dessert with a self-designed cake as a mold and layers of different fillings.
I was totally excited when I first saw a picture of this one at Deeba Rajpal's blog ( and had an instant urge to do it ;) The sponge cake, the chocolate custard and the strawberry bavarian cream were to go into mine and this is the first time I am trying to make all three of them. It has been in the back of my mind and on my to-do list, for a few weeks now, just waiting for the an occasion. Then came the occasion and the fear of actually making it!  I didn't want to do it because it was challenging and I didn't want to quit, especially because it was challenging :) Finally, I mustered up all courage (Vathsal said it looked like I was going for an examination...LOL!) and stepped into the kitchen! Baking time :)

The first thing was to make the cake with the design pattern. I started with the decor paste and I actually made only half of the recipe and that was a lot. Next time I wouldn't make so much. Drawing the hearts was so much fun, since, it they were kinda cute and free-style.
Joconde imprime /entremets
Recipe Adapted : From Chef John O, The International Culinary School in Atlanta, Georgia USA.
Patterned Joconde-Décor Paste (I made half of this, but, I wouldn't make so much, next time)
YIELD: Two ½ size sheet pans or a 13” x 18” (33 x 46 cm) jelly roll pan
14 tablespoons/200g unsalted butter, softened
1½ cups plus1½ tablespoons Confectioners’ (icing) sugar
7 large egg whites
1¾ cup cake flour [(14 tbsp all purpose flour + 2 tbsp corn starch) sifted 3-4 times = 1 cup of cake flour]
Food coloring gel, paste or liquid
COCOA Décor Paste Variation: Reduce cake flour to 6 oz / 170g. Add 2 oz/ 60g cocoa powder. Sift the flour and cocoa powder together before adding to creamed mixture.
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Gradually add egg whites. Beat continuously.
Fold in sifted flour.
Tint batter with coloring to desired color, if not making cocoa variation.  
Preparing the Joconde- How to make the pattern:
Spread a thin even layer of décor paste approximately 1/4 inch thick onto silicone baking mat or parchment  with a spatula, or flat knife. Place mat on an upside down baking sheet. The upside down sheet makes spreading easier with no lip from the pan.
Pattern the décor paste – Here is where you can be creative. Make horizontal /vertical lines (you can use a knife, spatula, cake/pastry comb). Squiggles with your fingers, zig zags, wood grains. Be creative whatever you have at home to make a design can be used. OR use a piping bag(I used a piping bag and piped the cute little hearts). Pipe letters, or polka dots, or a piped design. If you do not have a piping bag. Fill a ziplock bag and snip off corner for a homemade version of one.
Slide the baking sheet with paste into the freezer. Freeze hard. Approx 15 minutes or even more.

Joconde Sponge
YIELD: Two ½ size sheet pans or a 13” x 18” (33 x 46 cm) jelly roll pan
¾ cup almond flour
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons icing sugar
¼ cup cake flour
3 large eggs
3 large egg whites
2½ teaspoons white granulated sugar or superfine (caster) sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
In a clean mixing bowl whip the egg whites and white granulated sugar to firm, glossy peeks. Reserve in a separate clean bowl to use later.
Sift almond flour, confectioner’s sugar, cake flour.
On medium speed, add the eggs a little at a time. Mix well after each addition. Mix until smooth and light.
Fold in one third reserved whipped egg whites to almond mixture to lighten the batter. Fold in remaining whipped egg whites. Do not over mix.
Fold in melted butter. (I forgot to do this and later found my butter lying the microwave, but, no regrets!)

Remove the joconde decor from the freezer. Quickly pour the Joconde batter over the design. Spread evenly to completely cover the pattern of the Décor paste.
The oven was pre-heated to 475 F and mine was done(bounces back when slightly pressed) in a little less than 10 minutes, on the middle rack. Keep watching your cake while it is in the oven, as it gets done pretty quick and burns quicker! You can bake it as is on the upside down pan.
Cool. Do not leave too long, or you will have difficulty removing it from mat/parchment.
I was really tensed until I peeled my parchment paper from the cake after turning it upside down on another parchment sprinkled with confectioner's sugar. Viola!!! It was awesome looking with the pretty pretty hearts on it and perfectly done! Instant gratification!!!

I assembled mine on a 9'' spring-form pan rim, lined with parchment strips on the sides and the base and cellophane taped to the base of the cake carrier. The strips of cake were so flexible and I loved working with them. 

Preparing the MOLD for entremets:
Start with a large piece of parchment paper laid on a very flat baking sheet. Then a large piece of cling wrap over the parchment paper. Place a spring form pan ring, with the base removed, over the cling wrap and pull the cling wrap tightly up on the outside of the mold. Line the inside of the ring with a curled piece of parchment paper or mousse strips overlapping top edge by ½ inch. Cut the parchment paper to the top of the mold if you want to smooth the top of the cake.

The next part was to make the Chocolate custard :) My first attempt went wrong as I let my custard boil and it curdled :( I wanted to give up as it was already 10 PM, on a weeknight. Then then there is this urge in you that makes you do it! I tried it again, no boiling this time and it came out awesome!
Vathsal and I love strawberries dipped or rather dunked in chocolate. Yummy :) That is the only way we can eat strawberries! So, I decided to add the cut strawberries to the chocolate custard. ( I actually sneaked in a few berries dunked in the custard...........Shhhhhhh, Vathsal doesn't know ;) ) So, the cake lining on the base got a first dose of the chocolate custard, followed by some pieces of strawberries and then the remaining chocolate custard. I left it in the refrigerator for an hour and in the meantime made the strawberry bavarian cream, another first!
Chocolate Custard/Cream
2 egg yolks
3 1/2 tbsp sugar
100ml milk
150ml cream
1 tbsp vanilla extract
 7 oz. dark chocolate, chopped (I used 5 oz. of semi-sweet chocolate and 2 oz. of 100% chocolate. I prefer slight bitterness in my chocolate mixture!)
Simmer the milk, cream and vanilla and bring to a boil.
Beat the yolks with sugar until pale & creamy.
Pour about 1/2 cup of the hot cream mixture over the beaten yolks, stirring quickly with a balloon whisk to incorporate fully. Pour this back into the remaining milk/cream mixture in the pan, and continue to cook over low heave until the custard thickens and coats the back of the spoon.
Remove from heat immediately, and strain over the chopped dark chocolate. Stir until smooth. Cool well, until it loses the heat but is still pour-able, yet quite thick. Pour about an inch over the cake base, and allow to set completely in the fridge, at least an hour, before adding next layer.  (I added cut strawberries to my chocolate custard)

Strawberry bavarian cream:
The custard making stint this time was a breeze and I then mixed it with my bloomed strawberry jello. This mixture tasted awesome and I had to stop myself from doing the "taste testing", which I did almost ten times ;) Then whipped the cream and folded it into the jello-custard mixture. It tasted even better! Oh boy, it was real test to my self-control, especially when it was close to 1 AM and with no-one around ;)

4 egg yolks
1/3 cups + 2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp + 1 tsp + 1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup + 3 tbsp milk
1 tbsp strawberry gelatin
400ml cream (as 200ml + 200ml)
Whisk the egg yolks with a balloon whisk with 1/3 cup of sugar and 1 tsp vanilla until smooth.
Bloom gelatin in 3 tbsp of cold milk
Simmer 1/2 cup of milk and 200ml cream with 1 tbsp vanilla extract and bring to a boil.
Take it off the heat and whisk into the yolk mix, somewhat like in French pastry cream.
Return to a heavy bottom pan, and place on medium heat until the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon, stirring constantly.
Take off and whisk in bloomed gelatin. Strain and leave to cool.
Once it is completely cooled, whip 200ml of cream with 2 tbsp of sugar and 1 tsp of vanilla extract, and fold it into the custard gently but thoroughly. You will notice the Bavarian thickening.
Pour the Bavarian mousse over the set chocolate custard layer. Leave to set overnight.

Strawberries dipped in chocolate:
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2-3 tbsp cream
8-10 strawberries

Microwave the cream for 10-20 seconds, until it begins to boil and pour it over the chocolate chips. Stir well until the chips melt. (If the chips don't seem to melt, try microwaving the mixture for 10-20 seconds.)
Wash and pat dry the strawberries. Dip them in the molten chocolate and place them on a parchment paper.
refrigerate until the chocolate hardens and sets.
Place these strawberries on the cake bavarian cream layer.
Add 1-2 tbsp of cream to the remaining chocolate mix to thin it and drizzle it over and around the cake!
Let the whole thing sit in the refrigerator for at least 4-5 hours, for the flavors to blend.


Friday, April 8, 2011

Spicy pretzels !!!

Pretzels! I always thought that the ones that tasted good (like the salted or the yummy chocolate covered ones) were not good for you, while the ones that were actually good for you (the unsalted, fat-free!) tasted, well, tasteless !!! 
Then, I got this recipe from friends at work. I have slightly tweaked it to suit my love for spice and (occasional) low-cal conscience! Try one and I am sure you will want more ;) 

Unsalted mini pretzels (fat free) - 23 oz (2 1/2 packs of 9.25 oz packs)
Spicy ranch dressing - 1 sachet
Onion powder - 1 tbsp
Garlic powder or garlic salt - 1 tbsp (I used garlic powder for my low-sodium preference)
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp or according to taste
Olive oil - 6 tbsp

Method :
Take a large mixing bowl and put the pretzels in it.
Mix together the powdered ranch, onion powder, garlic powder and red chilli powder in a small bowl.
Add the oil to the pretzels and mix, until evenly and well-coated.
Sprinkle the spice mixture over the oiled pretzels and mix evenly.
Pre-heat the oven to 250 F.
Spread the pretzels evenly on a sheet pan or a cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes.
Mix once and bake for another 15 minutes.
Once they are done, let it cool (you will not have anything left once you start trying it while it is still hot/warm!) and store it in air-tight bags.
They should be good for a week to 10 days, in case there are some left ;)

Monday, April 4, 2011

M'Hanncha - Moroccan snake cake :)

M'Hanncha, translated as "Snake cake" is a Moroccan dessert. It is traditionally made with an almond paste filling, but, I made mine with dates and a nut mixture, sweetened with honey. So, it is actually all the stuff that is good for you, but, what is in a dessert without any butter, a.k.a. the tasty stuff ?!!! The filling is then, wrapped with some phyllo dough sheets and butter is spread in between the layers of the dough ;) Yummm!

2 cups dates
1 cup blanched or slivered almonds
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup pistachios
4 tbsp honey
2 tbsp rose water
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tbsp orange zest or the zest from one orange*

1 roll of phyllo dough, thawed
6 tbsp butter, melted
1 egg yolk

6 tbsp honey
4 tbsp rose water
4 tbsp water
1 tbsp orange zest or the zest from one orange*

* The traditional recipe calls for orange blossom water, but, I used orange zest, instead.

Steam the dates for 10 minutes or until soft.
Dry roast the nuts, until golden brown and aromatic.
Run the nuts in the food processor and make it into a coarse mixture.
Do the same with the dates and its okay if it turns into a sticky paste.
Add the nuts and the dates to a mixing bowl and mix well.
Add the honey, rose water, cinnamon, cardamom and the orange zest.
Mix well and the the mixture will come together into a ball.
You can actually sneak some at this stage too ;) C'mon you deserve it!
Take some of this mixture and using your hands, roll it into a log(approximately one inch diameter and eleven inches long)
Thaw and unroll one roll of phyllo dough. Cover it with a damp paper towel or kitchen towel (Make sure it is not wet).
Take two sheets and lay them on a work surface(I covered my work surface with parchment paper, just in case the sheets stick to the surface) with the length of the sheet towards you.
Brush some melted butter on the sheet. Instead, you can try spraying some butter flavored cooking spray for a reduced calorie option).
Lay 2 or 3 more sheets on the buttered sheets. Make sure to cover the remaining phyllo dough sheets with the damp towel.
Place the mixture made into a log, along the edge of the length of the sheet. FYI, The sheet is 14 inches in length and 9 inches in width. 
Roll the sheet along the length, so that the mixture becomes the filling wrapped in phyllo dough, resembling a log. Gently press to relieve any air-gap between the filling and the wrapper.
Tuck in or fold the remaining/ unfilled ends of the log.
Butter a 8 x 8 baking dish.
Place this log in the center and roll/ coil it around itself. It might break at some points and that is okay!
Make similar filling logs, wrap it with phyllo dough and coil it in a similar way, tightly, end to end, filling the entire baking dish. There lies our snake!
Brush the coiled snake with melted butter and then with a egg yolk, to brown it while baking.
Pre-heat the oven to 350 F and bake the pastry for 30-35 minutes. Make sure it does not burn.
While it is in the oven, let us make the syrup!
Mix the honey, rose water, water and orange zest, together in a sauce-pan. Taste a few drops and if you find the orange over-powering as I did, filter it.
Bring the remaining liquid to a boil and turn off the heat.
Once the snake is out of the oven, pour the syrup evenly over it.
Let it cool for sometime. Enjoy it warm or cold and I am sure you will love it, either way!
We enjoyed it warm with some vanilla ice-cream on top.......Hmmmm.............Welcome to bliss!!!