Several long-overdue recipe quick takes

There comes a point when you simply have to declare “blog bankruptcy” and clear out your writing backlog. That doesn’t allow you to discharge your writing debt in its entirety, but it does mean that you (well, I) can feel less bad about giving some posts really short shrift. So here are a few really quick hits on recipes I’ve made since my trip to Worldcon 75 in Helsinki last August that I haven’t gotten around to saying anything about yet.

First, the brownie recipe (entitled simply “brownies”) from Little Flower Baking by Christine Moore with Cecilia Leung (Prospect Park Books, 2016). Awful, awful, awful: overbaked, cakey, and tasteless. I find in impossible to believe that they sell brownies this bad in the eponymous cafe. The proportions don’t look terribly far from the average brownie, so this recipe would probably work out fine with the right cooking time and temperature.

Second, “Truffle Chocolate Cream Pie” from Joanne Chang’s Baking with Less Sugar (Chronicle Books, 2015). Unlike the last recipe, this one was a real winner, with the two distinct-textured rich chocolate fillings and only the sugar originally in the chocolate itself. I had trouble getting the chocolate mousse topping to whip up as much as I thought it should have (I have the same trouble with whipped ganache filling for cakes, and probably for the same reason — maybe it’s my expectation that’s wrong). Despite the reduced sugar, it’s by no means a low-cal dessert: with low-fat milk and Callebaut 60-40-NV for the chocolate it still clocks in at 517 kcal for 1/12 of a pie. Recommended. I have a few photos of this one:

The recipe uses Chang’s standard pâte brisée, with egg yolk and milk but no sugar.

This shows the pie with the bottom “truffle” filling (basically a very thick chocolate custard, with egg yolks, butter, and cream).

The pie is topped with a whipped chocolate mousse and then chocolate shavings are sprinkled on top of that.

This shows the cross-section of the pie, with the two fillings barely distinguishable (more by apparent density than by color). I have yet to master the proper technique for truly flaky all-butter pie crust.

I had a bunch of cream left over after the last recipe, and you know what that means: truffles! I turned once again to Alice Medrich’s Seriously Bitter Sweet (Artisan, 2013), but this time I used a different recipe, “Cold Creamy Truffles” (pp. 102ff). Unlike the “Ganache Truffles” I’ve made before, which involve making a ganache and allowing it to recrystallize at room temperature overnight, the centers of these truffles are formed from a refrigerator-cooled ganache and set in the freezer before coating with melted dark chocolate. This technique avoids the need for tempering the coating chocolate, at the cost of having to refrigerate the truffles until shortly before serving time. The texture of the cold, creamy centers contrasts nicely with the crisp coating shell. (True story: I didn’t intend to make this recipe; I was actually thinking I was going to make a different one, and didn’t notice until I had all of my mise done for this one, which I actually scaled up by 50% to use up all my excess cream.) No photos for this one. I used Valrhona Caraque for the centers and Valrhona Caraïbe for the coating, and ended up making them about 50% larger than the recipe called for. At this size, they came in at 111 kcal each, which is still pretty reasonable if you are comparing with a ≈350-kcal cookie or brownie.

Fourth: I decided to go full-on German this Christmas, thanks to Luisa Weiss’s acclaimed Classic German Baking (Ten Speed Press, 2016). There wasn’t enough time to do Lebkuchen (leavened with potash, the dough takes months to ripen!) but plenty of time for Pfeffernüsse, Christbrot, and Mohntorte. I intend to do separate write-ups of all three of these recipes later on this month.

Finally, my birthday cake this year will be Mycroft’s Delight Revisited. This past weekend, I made the Gianduja-flavored Swiss meringue buttercream that represents my principal contribution to this recipe, but this time I used Valrhona Noisette Noir instead of the Noisette Lait I used last time, and I can report that it is much better in terms of color and flavor in this recipe. So if you want to try this yourself, get the dark. (There’s still plenty of butter in this frosting so you’ll get your butterfat one way or another.)

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