Vancouver is blessed to be a city with vibrancy. From ducks quacking, birds chirping, bees humming and flowers blooming, one can indulge in the beauty of nature. As Easter weekend is around the corner, one can see stores decked out in Easter decor and festivities. Soon children and kiddies will be eagerly running around in the parks, searching high and low, all looking for the elusive but prized Easter egg, whilst others create their own memories by decorating an Easter egg. I can picture it as kiddies will be smiles from end to end as hold their prized possession in their little hand; a mouth watering delight for all.
While it is a grand tradition to think about and better yet to ultimately watch the children race around with glee all holding decorated Easter baskets, I decided that I take that tradition into my own household and create an adventure of my own. This year, I made chocolate easter eggs but the only difference was that I did not make a truffle filling. Instead I added in the filling with the tempered chocolate, in doing so, I created beautifully decorated flavoured chocolates. If the Easter Bunny should show up at my doorstep, she would be happy as well.
Chocolate Easter Eggs
I had a pecan tart at Giovani Cafe at the Pacific Rim Hotel the other day. Loving the sweet and crunchy combination of the tart and crust, I decided to see if I could recreate it.
The key to making the Pecan tart was actually the filling. I have seen recipes using corn syrup, cream, sugar and maple syrup. Favoring a chewier consistency, I opted for a recipe which called for maple syrup.
Keys in making a Pecan Tart:
1. Do not dock the pie/tart crust as the filling will seep out when cooking. You would get a mess of cooked eggs/sugar syrup and the end
a) To make the tart, I first made the crust first. Having repeated success with Felder’s Pate Sucre recipe, I choose to make it again this time using a Tahitian Vanilla Bean. The vanilla bean gave a floral after taste which complimented the light tart crust when baked. Instead of removal bottom tart pans, I chose to use ring molds. Once the pate sucre was finished, I placed the dough into the fridge before rolling it out into the tart rings.
b) While the pate sucre was chilling, I made the filling. The filling consisted of maple syrup, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, butter and lemon juice. Unlike conventional recipes, this recipe called for a dry caramel from the brown sugar. The caramel was done, de-glaze it by adding the maple syrup and brought back to a boil again and then cooled. Once cooled pour the mixture over the beaten eggs and butter, vanilla and lemon juice.
c) To assemble, place the pecans on the bottom of the uncooked tart crust and pour in the filling. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes until golden brown and done.
Pecan Tart(recipe found here)
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup (I used maple syrup)
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 3/4 cups pecan halves
Yippeeee!!! AS a child, I had always been a fan of chinese pastries. A favorite of mine was the Pineapple Pastry. From the sweet and chewy filling to the light shortcrust there was something nostalgic about the treat. Well, my eyes definitely shone and gleamed when I found the perfect recipe. One would wonder why it took so long for me to make it, fear was the response. Maybe it was the thought of boiling down the pineapple puree or the wrapping of the puree into the delicate shortcrust without breaking it but once I got the pineapple the rest became history.
Key to Making Pineapple Pastry:
-Pineapple needs to be chopped not pureed
-Do not puree because as pineapple is simmered there will be a higher amount of juices this will then increase the cooking time to caramelize and form a paste
-Reduce the pineapple mixture to a paste like consistency as it is easier to wrap it
-The ratio of wrap to filling is 1:1. If you have a hard time wrapping and sealing, you can increase the ratio to 3:2. The crust will be more thick and tender
-Do not roll the shortcrust pastry too thin as it will crack when forming and crispy when baked.
To make the filling I first cored and diced the pineapple in a blender. Under medium heat, I combined the maltose, sugar and pineapple and stirred slowly until the mixture is reduced to a paste. The short crust then came next. Once the short crust was finished, I rolled it into a log and divided it into pieces to be rolled out individually. Using a melon baller, I then scooped the pineapple mixture onto the shortcrust dough and pressed in the seams to seal it. Be gentle or the delicate shortcrust will crack which would be disastrous. The thickness Once assembled, I brushed the pastries with egg wash and sprinkled them with sesame.
Pineapple Pastry Recipe (recipe found here)
150g/1.5 cups cake flour
100g/7 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
30g/4 tbsp powdered sugar
25g/1/2 egg, slightly beaten
30g/4 tbsp milk powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 medium size pineapple
60g/5 tbsp sugar
60g/5 tbsp maltose
Bake at 350 for 20 minutes and serve the delicate pastries warm. Results: I found the pineapple filling quite tangy and yummy but found the crust crispy due to the egg wash and thickness of the dough. Next time one can adjust the dough to the ratio as mentioned above but wow….Melt in your mouth goodness.
Yes another order birthday cake order!!! Imagine my delight as it was from a former club mate. Yes I have kept in touch with paddlers throughout the years. Dragonboating has gained momentum over the past few years within the Asian community in the lower mainland. In the recent years the sport’s popularity has even touched the hearts of the english speaking community as more local teams are forming. When one asked any paddler, their response would be that dragonboat was not just a sport but a community within itself as teams display comaradie, support, competition and sportmanship. Like all sports, there are tears of joy for triumph and disappointment for every heartwrenching win/lost by a hundredths of a second. Close friendships are forged by individuals as they endure long hours of grueling practices in the worst possible weather conditions imaginable such as rain, sleet and snow. Dragonboating was definitely not for the weak at heart as every piece of the practice requires power, determination and teamwork striving towards a common goal success.
In this order, I chose to make chocolate cake. I had always admired Asian pastry chefs and undoubtedly Tony Wong was amongst the best of him. Having made a previous recipe, this time I made his chocolate sponge cake recipe. Unless most chocolate cakes, Tony’s was chocolate cake was quite extraordinary as it required no baking powder and instead depended on the properties of the heated eggs themselves to leaven the cake.
To make the sabayon, first beat the egg and sugar until warm on top of a double boiler then use a electric mixer to whip the warm mixture until frothy and double in volume. This method incorporated air into the mixture and at the same time released the oil from the egg yolks allowing them to reach their full potential. By doing so, the product would be light, moist and fluffy. Next, sifted flour was added in with the cocoa and oil to the mixture. I can’t emphasize the importance of not using a mixer as it will deflate the air that was already incorporated. Once everything was fully incorporated, bake the sponge cake at 350F for 25 minutes.
For the filling, I created a strawberry/raspberry chocolate mousse made from picked berries. I first soaked the gelatin and heated up the puree. While chocolate and gelatin was then added into the puree. The whipped cream was last to be added. I then finished the mousse layer off with some freshly sliced strawberries. Vola, here was the finished product.
Chocolate Sponge Cake:
As one could find versions of chocolate cake everywhere, I have left out the recipe. True to his words, Tony’s verson was a keeper; the cake was moist, rich and light. Happy Baking!!!
I finally have some free time with work winding down. I have been thinking of a couple of novels that I have read before. One of these novels was the critically acclaimed “Life of Pi.” It told the journey of a young man stranded on a boat with a bengal tiger. In the beginning, the story did not strike me as enjoyable but as I took the time to read I was soon captivated and enthralled by the writing. Symbolism was used to represent human characteristics in this case, animals namely a zebra, orangutang, hyena and tiger. From beginning of the story to the ending, Martel used these animals to depict human nature but he also used religion to touch base for salvation. One may question way he reflected on religion but it answer is simple; it is through religion where we find hope, strength and courage. Isn’t it why individuals pray or go to temples after all? On a deeper level, Martel actually touches on a darker more sensitive issue, cannisbalism and survival. I guess that was why Pi choose to use animals to represent individuals to retell his ordeal at sea as it was less frowned upon. The story was unfolded beautifully as it gave a detailed account of a young man stranded out at sea with virtually no hope and no chance of survival and how he overcame his obstacles. An example would be cohabitation with a Bengal Tiger, which of courses was a human being; moreover, how religion came into play and gave him hope and salvation when there was none. I savoured this read very much as it touches on every day life and how each individual was dealt with a deck of cards to play, every individual could be Pi, and no matter how hard the cards may be, that individuals through determination will triumph.
No sweet read could be accompanied without a similarly sweet dessert. This time it was Japanese Cheesecake again with a twist. A friend had ordered it for a get together and had requested for a cheesecake. This time around I chose to decorate it fresh fruit and created a caramelized sugar ball on top. Fruits naturally complimented the soft spongy texture but it was lacking something thus I created a sugar ball compliment the fruits. Voila.
The photo certainly did not do much justice for the cake but I was quite happy with the outcome of it. Hope you all have little sweet moments!!!