Archive for September, 2011

Maple apple crisp

Fall is my favorite time of year. It’s something about those cool mornings, crisp leaves, festive pumpkins and juicy apples that get me excited about the coming months.

Although I’ve been a bit busy with school baking, I received a request for apple crisp and recently had the opportunity to pick some fabulous upstate NY apples from Lindsey’s Orchard in Clifton Park. And with all of the fancy French desserts I’ve been bringing home from school, a simple, American dessert sounded pretty good to me.

One of my pet peeves about crisp recipes is a lack of crisp, or crumble topping.  I like this recipe because it has the perfect balance of textures. It’s one of the easiest recipes to make, yet looks impressive when topped with freshly whipped cream or your favorite ice cream and maybe a drizzle of caramel or whiskey…yum!

I prefer nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice with apples, but feel free to use spices that you really love.  For instance, ginger, vanilla bean or cardamom would all be fantastic substitutions for this recipe. Pecans and hazelnuts can easily replace the walnuts.

Bon Appetit!

Maple apple crisp

Maple Apple Crisp with Bourbon Cream
Yield: 10-12 servings

Apple filling
6 apples (I used Macintosh. Granny Smith or Cortlands would also work nicely)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (one stick) unsalted butter, cold
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans

1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon bourbon of choice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9×13 baking dish and set aside.  Peel, core and chop the apples into 1/2 -3/4 inch pieces and place in a large bowl.  Pour lemon juice and maple syrup over apples and toss to combine.

Combine the remaining filling ingredients (flour, sugar and spices) in a small bowl, then sprinkle over apples. Toss to evenly coat the apples. Spread the apples evenly in the prepared baking dish.

To make the topping, combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times to blend. Cut the cold stick of butter into small cubes and add to food processor. Pulse several times until the mixture forms pea sized lumps. Add the nuts and pulse a few times just to combine.

Sprinkle the topping evenly over the apples.  Bake the crisp for 50-60 minutes, or until topping is a nice golden brown (apple filling should be very bubbly). Remove from oven and cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

Just before serving, make the bourbon cream by whipping the heavy cream in a stand mixer. When the mixture begins to thicken, slowly add the sugar and bourbon. Continue to beat until soft peaks form.

Serve slices of the crisp with a spoonful of cream.


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Linzer torte

Linzer torte

Wow, unit 1 is over already! I can’t believe I’m already 6 weeks into school.  Time is flying.

The grand finale of our Tarts & Cookies unit is the Linzer Torte, made with Pate a Linzer (linzer dough).  You may have had, or baked, linzer cookies around the holidays.  This torte is essentially one big version of that.

The Linzer Torte is an Austrian dessert that’s delicious and relatively easy to make.  The most challenging component of it, is how quickly the linzer dough softens.  You really need to work quickly to get your tart shell lined.  In Austria, it’s traditional to fill this with a red currant compote, however, Americans seem to prefer raspberries, which is what we used to make this filling.

This project was also our introduction to making a lattice top, which I’ve done before.  I did, however, learn that the technique I have been referring to as a lattice crust is actually a basket weave.  Both look great.

You can also use this dough, and the leftover compote to make those linzer cookies you love so much!

Au revoir Tarts & Cookies!  I’m sure I’ll see you again soon…

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Nutty tart fun

Tarte aux noix

I’m finding out that European desserts are super nutty, which I love. Europeans use nuts as garnishes, fillings, flours and crusts. At school, we work with all types of nuts, but mostly focus on hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans and pistachios. It’s interesting to learn about the differences in flavor and texture of each nut.

This Tarte aux Noix, or Nut Tart, is a great example of how well different nut flavors can be combined to complement one another. It starts with a thin layer of baker’s jam, followed by sliced almonds and then topped with a gluten-free nut cake made of hazelnut flour and almond cream.

Tarte aux noix

This tart is traditionally finished with a powdered sugar topping. We had the opportunity to play with stencils in this class and since I had an weekend trip to an upstate apple orchard on my mind, I had a little fun with this one.

This tart bakes perfectly and works well for breakfast, dessert or as afternoon treat with coffee or tea. In class we also had the opportunity to taste just the filling, baked in a mini loaf pound as a small pound cake, and it was fabulous. Perfect for any gluten-free folks!

Tarte aux noix caramel

In the same nut family is the Tarte aux Noix Caramel, or the Caramel Nut Tart. This might be my favorite tart so far. It’s a tart dough filled with freshly-made walnut caramel and topped with almond cream, then baked and finished with half powdered sugar and half nappage (apricot glaze).

I brought half of this tart to work and by 11 am, there wasn’t so much as a crumb left. I guess that’s a good sign!

Inner workings of the tarte aux noix caramel

Now, this isn’t exactly a nut tart, but it does have nutmeg in it, so here is a Quiche Lorraine I recently made in class.  I’m not a huge quiche fan, but this was pretty yummy, and these little tartelettes are the perfect size for breakfast! It’s cream, milk, eggs, bacon, salt, pepper and nutmeg. That’s it, just a simple baked custard!

Quiche lorraine

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Chocolate Bavarian Tart

Now, we’re getting to the good stuff – chocolate!  I knew these chocolate tarts were coming and I’m sure glad they’re here.  This first tart is a Chocolate Bavarian Tart, which is a creme anglaise based tart, mixed with chocolate and topped with whipped cream rosettes – yum!  It’s basically, the fancy European version of Chocolate Pudding Pie.

This was also my first time working with gelatin, which we used to pull the pudding together.  It was very easy to work with and the chocolate filling was silky smooth and delicious.

The below Chocolate Ganache Tart is probably the easiest tart we’ve made.  You pre-bake, or “blind bake” the shell, make a simple chocolate ganache with cream and chocolate and pour it into the shell.  After giving the ganache some time to set, we played around with piping white chocolate designs.  This tart would also be great topped with chocolate shavings, whipped cream rosettes, nuts, fresh berries, candied fruit – the sky is the limit!

Chocolate ganache tart

FCI offers a Cake Design course that purely focuses on intricate cake design and decor techniques.  I was luckily enough to get a peek at their recent wedding cake projects, which are parked outside of my classroom – WOW!  Really inspiring.

No, I did not make any of these cakes, but I wish I did!

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Chocolate heaven cookies

As promised, here is an easy and delicious recipe for a chocolate cookie recipe we made in culinary school.  During my first Unit, Tarts & Cookies, we experimented with a lot of different cookie techniques.  This “drop” cookie was my favorite, not because it was the easiest, but because it was so chocolatey.

This cookie is easy and quick to put together yet tastes rich and decadent.  It’s texture is somewhat similar to a flour-less chocolate cookie, although these do require a small amount of flour.

It’s perfect for impressing friends and family and is a great start to fall, although, I love chocolate any time of year!


Chocolate Heaven Cookies

½ lb chocolate, chopped
3 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3 oz butter
3 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp coffee extract (or coffee)
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1.5 oz all-purpose flour
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup pecans (walnuts, hazelnuts, or any other nut you love)

Combine the chocolate, unsweetened chocolate and butter and melt in a double boiler (bain-marie!).  Set aside.

Whip the eggs, sugar, coffee extract, vanilla extract and salt together until light and fluffy, approximately 2-3 minutes for this batter.

Gently fold the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture.  Then add the flour, chocolate chips and pecans and fold in until just combined.  The batter will look loose, like cake batter.

Drop small amounts of batter 2 inches apart on a parchment lined sheet pan.  The cookies will expand a little, but not much.

Bake at 350 for 10-14 minutes, or until desired doneness.

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Pot de creme with hazelnut crescent cookies rolled in vanilla sugar

Happy Fall everyone!  That’s right, the last hurrah of Labor Day weekend is long behind us and we’re now looking forward to a bright and busy fall.

This year Fall means cookies for me!  We are experimenting with different techniques and types of cookies (molded, drop, piped, etc.).  Above is a picture of our first plated dessert, the Pot de Creme, which was accompanied by these fabulous “molded” Hazelnut Crescent Cookies rolled in Vanilla Sugar.  I found that they are great with coffee or tea too.

Below is a selection of some cookies we’ve made in class recently, which I then fed to everyone I know or froze for a rainy day.


Gingersnaps are so versatile.  I was excited to make these and freeze them for ice cream, cookie crumb crusts, etc.  I’m not sure what happened, but these disappeared in a day or so…

Fig newtons

I love figs, and this cookie was one of the more special and complicated ones we’ve made.  It tastes just like the Fig Newtons you may remember eating as a child.

Almond spritz cookies

These Spritz Cookies were a means of practicing the “piping” technique for making cookies, with a pastry bag a.  We experimented with different toppings, in this case chocolate, pistachios and baker’s jam.  I’m not a huge fan of plain butter cookies, however, we added almond paste to cookies and I loved them.  Nice and moist.

And finally, the Chocolate Heaven Cookie.  These “drop” cookies are the easiest thing in the world to make and are absolutely divine.  Super chocolatey and somewhat similar to a flourless chocolate cookie, if you’ve had one before (although these do have a small amount of flour in them).  Stay tuned for this recipe, coming soon!

Chocolate heaven cookies

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