Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fresh Berry Tiramisu

A few months ago, one of my coworker's announced that she married her long-time boyfriend in a private wedding ceremony. We were very excited for her and wanted to host a small celebration in her honor. I started searching for the perfect recipe to help her celebrate his new beginning and came across a berry tiramisu. I don't think I've ever had tiramisu-- it's not really my thing and halfway through this experiment, I came to the realization it’s really hard to make a recipe that you don’t know what the end product is going to taste like (probably obvious, but I guess I like to state the obvious).

The biggest obstacle for me was creating the sponge cake portion. I had a hard time incorporating the flour mixture into the egg mixture. The flour gobbed up (best description I can think of) and created pockets of flour surrounded by the wet-egg mixture. I was trying to be careful not to deflate the batter by mixing too hard so after a while I ended up baking the cake. The flour chunks softened when I added the syrup after it baked but I realized I need to learn how to fold flour into a wet mixture better. It was stressful!

Anyway, after that adventure, I assembled the cake and I have to say, this recipe is pretty incredible. My coworkers absolutely loved it! I am dreaming of strawberry season so I can make it again.

Fresh Berry Tiramisu
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Sponge cake

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoons salt
6 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Zest of 2 lemons, peeled in strips with a peeler
Juice of 2 lemons (1/3 to 1/2 cup lemon juice)
2 whole cloves
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
3 tablespoons Grand Marnier or orange juice

1 pound mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons orange zest
1 cup (8 ounces) whipping cream
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 quarts berries: raspberries, blueberries, strawberries or any combination you like
Preheat the oven to 350°F and lightly grease, or line with parchment, a 13 x 18-inch half-sheet pan or two 9-inch square pans (this would lead to a thicker cake).

To make the cake:
Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside.

Combine the eggs, sugar and almond extract in a large mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer at high speed until thick and lemon-colored, about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle one third of the dry ingredients over the egg mixture, and fold them in with a whisk, taking care not to deflate the batter. Repeat twice more with the remaining dry ingredients, then pour the batter into the prepared pan(s). If you’re using two 9-inch square pans, divide the batter evenly between them.

Bake the cake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until the top springs back when lightly touched with a finger.

Remove the cake from the oven and run a knife around the edge of the pan while still warm (as the cake baked, it pulled away from the edges of the pan, so I didn't need to do this). Place the cake on a rack to cool completely before taking it out of the pan.

To make the syrup:
Combine all the syrup ingredients and bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Once the mixture is clear, remove the syrup from the heat, strain it, and allow it to cool to room temperature.

To make the filling:
Place the mascarpone in a mixing bowl, and wisk in the orange zest. Add the whipping cream a third at a time, stirring between additions until the mixture is smooth. Stir in the confectioner’s sugar. Beat for at least a minute or more as needed until the filling is light and fluffy.

To assemble:
Flip the cooled cake out of its baking pan or pans onto a piece of parchment paper. If you’ve baked on parchment, peel the parchment off the back. Pull the paper straight back, keeping it parallel to the surface of the cake; this will discourage any bits of cake from coming off with the paper.

Slice the cake in half down the middle, to make two roughly 9 by 13-inch rectangles. Trim the rectangles to make 9-inch squares, and set aside the excess to use for another purpose (trifle perhaps?). If you’ve used two 9-inch square pans, flip the cooled cakes out of their pans and peel the parchment off the bottoms.

Place one of the 9-inch squares in the bottom of a lightly greased 9-inch square pan (or a cake stand, plate, etc- basically, you can't really move the sponge cake after you soak it so make sure this is your final destination). Using a pastry brush, generously soak the cake with 1/2 cup of citrus syrup. You’ll need to dab the syrup on, let it soak in for a few minutes, then repeat the process.

After the cake has been soaked, spread half the mascarpone filling over the cake. Next, arrange a single layer of berries over the filling then place the second square of cake on top. Soak this layer of cake with syrup as you did before. Spread the remaining filling over the cake layer, then place the rest of the berries in an attractive design on the top (I started at the perimeter with sliced berries and moved towards the center). Refrigerate the cake for at least an hour before serving.

Yield: one 9-inch cake, 16 2-inch squares.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Yummy Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

And I'm back! I really disappeared... I don't know where I went... nor do I know where time has gone. The summer and fall flew by! I baked up a storm this summer and then have cut back this fall... I have a lot of recipes to share that are backlogged from the summer so I apologize if it's not seasonally appropriate since some of the produce is now out of season. Bear with me, I think I found a few great recipes though!

The majority of the summer was focused around my grandmother since we were hosting 90th birthday celebration for her. It was such an honor to celebrate this milestone with our family and friends. We had family that flew in from CA, AZ, FL, NY/ NJ and CO to help celebrate our grandmother's special day.

I took the week off from work to spend with our family... and bake and bake and bake. I made a double layer 9x13 birthday cake & 3 dozen cupcakes as well as about 8 dozen cookies for the evening. It was definitely an adventure to make all of the desserts but it was a great learning experience as well. I put my little kitchenaid stand mixer to work. For the cake & cupcakes, I use the marble cake recipe I've used before but tried a new chocolate frosting recipe. I also made about 100 royal icing pansy flowers to decorate the cake. I really liked this frosting-- I think I should have added a bit more milk to some of the batches as it was pretty dry but it came together nicely and worked pretty well for decorating.

I learned a few things in the process:
  • I needed to double each cake layer recipe but couldn't really double it in my mixer, so I had to make 4 batches separately. That is really hard to do with a marble cake mix!
  • The frosting was delicious but I had to make each batch separately as well... which slowed the decorating a lot because I had to stop and make a new batch when I ran out (I think I made 4 batches of frosting).
  • I think I made the layers too thick because slicing the cake was nearly impossible. It was stacked a bit too high and fell over. I think I needed to use 1 1/2 batches of the cake recipe vs 2 batches.
Chocolate Frosting
adapted from Williams Sonoma

8 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
6 cups confectioners' sugar
16 Tbs. (2 sticks) unsalted butter
6 Tbs. milk, plus more, if needed
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt

All ingredients should be at room temperature.

Melt chocolate in a double boiler (I use a pyrex bowl over a pot of simmering water) or microwave the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Let cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, combine the confectioners' sugar, butter, the 6 Tbs. milk, the vanilla and salt and beat on low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes, then reduce the speed to low. Add the chocolate and beat until combined, then increase the speed to medium and beat for 1 minute more.

If the frosting is dry, add more milk, 1 tsp. at a time, until it is creamy but still holds peaks. Makes about 4 1/2 cups.