Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Chocolate Brownie and Lemon Cheesecake with Italian Meringue



I can't begin to tell you how excited I am that summer is finally here! We've had a series of rainy weeks here on the East coast, but we can finally switch out our rain jackets and boots for shorts and flip-flops. And of course, we need to make a summery dessert to celebrate!

This tasty goodness is a perfect composition of decadent chocolate brownie, creamy lemon cheesecake and a light Italian meringue. I mean, what's not to love?




I love rustic looking desserts, mainly because they're usually easy to assemble and let the ingredients be the star of the show. This was my first time using frozen raspberries, and I love how beautiful they look! They add a nice colorful touch to the dessert and pairs nicely with the lemon flavor, too.




In the making of this dessert I am especially proud of two things, 1) I didn't light the kitchen on fire using the blow torch, and 2) I restrained myself from eating half of the dessert before it made it to the table. I might have had a few "test bites".






Happy baking!


Fudge Brownies
from Passion for Baking

9 oz. (250 g) dark chocolate (55-60% cocoa solids)
½ cup (120 g) unsalted butter
4 large eggs
1 ¾ cups (350 g) granulated sugar
½ cup (60 g) all-purpose flour
3 tbsp cocoa powder
½ tsp sea salt
7 oz. (200 g) dark chocolate, chopped
1 tsp vanilla extract


Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and line a 9 x 12-inch (25 x 30 cm) baking pan with baking parchment.
  2. Place the 9 oz. (250 g) chocolate into a heat proof bowl with the butter and melt over a pan of simmering water. Remove from the heat.
  3. Place the eggs and sugar into a mixing bowl and stir with a hand whisk. Stir in the melted chocolate mixture.
  4. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder and salt and fold into the mixture. Fold in the chopped chocolate and vanilla. 
  5. Pour the batter into the lined pan and bake for 30 minutes, no longer. Let cool completely.


Lemon Cheesecake
from Passion for Baking

150 g sugar
Finely grated rind of 2 lemons
1 ¼ dl lemon juice (ca. 3–5 lemons)
3 large eggs
2 gelatin leaves
300 g cream cheese


Directions:

  1. Combine sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and egg in a pan and heat it over low heat, stirring constantly. 
  2. Add gelatin leaves in cold water for a few minutes to soften them. 
  3. When the batter begins to thicken, squeeze water out of the gelatin leaves and have them up in the boiler. Stir well so the gelatin is completely dissolved. 
  4. Pour the mixture into a blender. Let lemon mixture to cool for 5 minutes (or until the mixture is 60 ° C) before adding cream cheese. Then run the blender for a few minutes so that the lemon mixture is completely smooth. 
  5. Pour it over the cooled brownies bottom and set the cake cool, for a few hours or overnight.


For the Italian Meringue recipe, check out this earlier post.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Hawaiian Birthday Cake



I recently had the great honor of making a surprise birthday cake for the Swedish Ambassador's Chef, Frida, whom I've become friends with through the Swedish community here. This is an incredibly talented woman who, before the age of 30, had already served her amazing dishes to both royalty and celebrities. No pressure, Eve!




Frida has always wanted to go to Hawaii, so her closest friends had planned a surprise Hawaii themed birthday party at Archipelago, a cool new tiki bar here in D.C. I was asked to make a cake to go with the theme, and the result was this coconut cake with a coconut and pineapple filling.

I had so much fun working with the design on this one, which included a few new "firsts" for me. The bottom tier is hand painted palm leaves on fondant. I used edible dusts that I mixed with vodka to create a watercolor consistency, and it definitely gave me an itch to try to paint more cakes. The second tier is a fondant cake that has been covered with confetti sprinkles, and then painted with a mixture of gold dust and vodka using a painting brush. Now, before you think "that's one boozy cake!", I should let you know that the alcohol evaporates and leaves no taste at all.

The Hibiscus flowers are made out of gum paste, which is a sturdier, more elastic and faster drying version of fondant. I  got a book by Alan Dunn, called Sugar Flower Skills, that has detailed step-by-step instructions. It is a little intimidating at first, but I can't wait to learn more!






Once again, Happy 30th Birthday, Frida!


Monday, April 04, 2016

Carolina's Baby Shower Cake



This past weekend has been filled with baby celebrations. One of my amazing sisters, Hanna, gave birth to a little baby boy, two of my friends announced that they are pregnant, and my dear friend Carolina had her baby shower. A total baby extravaganza!

I had the honor of making Carolina's baby shower cake. Carolina is Swedish just like me, and we first met five years ago at a Swedish baking event here in D.C. One fika, and we've been friends ever since.






The momma-to-be wished for a classic white cake with gold baby chucks on top. I had made the fondant baby shoes once before, after finding this great tutorial online, but this gold glitter version was so much fun to make. I kind of wish I had a pair in my size.








Congratulations to this beautiful couple! Our family can't wait to meet your little guy!


Monday, March 28, 2016

Lemon Almond Bars with Italian Meringue



I can't believe it's almost been a year since my very first blog post, the Speckled Easter Cake! I'm having so much fun on this baking journey. One year later, and I'm back with a new Easter post.

Our friends invited us over for an Easter potluck this past weekend, and since spring is in the air, I wanted to bake a fresh and fruity dessert to bring. When I came across this Lemon Almond Bars with Italian Meringue recipe, I knew it was calling my name. I know I've told you before, but lemon desserts are high up on my list of things I love.




Now, what makes this dessert better than a traditional lemon bar (and trust me, I do love a good lemon bar), are the two layers of almond cake that surrounds the lemon filling. The sweetness from the almond cake, the tartness of the lemon, and the smooth Italian meringue - it's pure magic.




Speaking of meringue, do you want in on a secret? I've been terrified of making Italian Meringue ever since I tried an Italian Meringue Buttercream recipe a year ago and failed miserably. To my surprise, it turns out it's not that hard at all! This time I had a good cooking thermometer, so I knew when the sugar mix had the right temperature before going into the whipped egg whites. After that, the Kitchen Aid worked its magic, and the result was a beautiful meringue.




I might have to come up with a similar cake idea, because this recipe was a perfect combination of fresh, light and creamy.


Lemon Meringue Bars
from Hembakat

Almond cake layers


400 g almond paste
100 g butter, room temperature
4 eggs
3 tbsp flour


Lemon filling

1 ½ gelatin sheets
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
90 g sugar
3.38 oz water
15 g corn starch
1 egg yolk
25 g butter


Italian Meringue

4 egg whites
3.38 oz water
135 g sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla sugar


Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Finely grate the almond paste into a mixing bowl. Whip in the butter and the eggs, one at a time. Lastly, fold the flour into the mix.

2. Dress two 8 inch square baking dishes with parchment paper. Divide the batter into the dishes, and bake for about 17 minutes. Let cool.

3. Lift the cakes from the baking dishes, and remove the parchment paper. Clean one of the pans and cover the inside with plastic wrap. Put one of the cakes in the pan with the baked side upward.

4. Filling: Put the gelatin in a bowl of cold water for about five minutes. Bring the lemon juice and half the amount of water to a boil.

5. Mix the corn starch with the egg yolk and the remaining amount of water in a mixing bowl. Stir the warm lemon mix into the egg yolk and whip on high speed. Pour it back into the saucepan and let it simmer until the cream thickens. Pour the lemon cream into a bowl and add the butter, a little at a time, and stir until smooth.

6. Remove the gelatin from the water and gently melt in a saucepan. Pour it into the lemon mix, while still warm. Pour the lemon curd on top of the almond cake. Transfer the second layer almond cake, baked side down, on top of the lemon filling. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the freezer for at least three hours.

7. Meringue: Pour the egg whites into a clean mixing bowl. Boil water and sugar until it reaches a temperature of 250 degrees. When the thermometer reaches 230 degrees, you start whipping the egg whites. When the sugar mixture reaches 230 degrees, gently pour it into the egg whites, whipping on high speed for a few minutes. Lower the speed, add the vanilla sugar and whip until the meringue has cooled.

8. Take out the cake from the freezer, and remove from the baking pan. Spread 2/3 of the meringue on the cake. Cut the cake into 12 rectangular pieces, while still frozen. Use the remaining meringue to decorate the pieces. I used a round tip, but you can also cut off one of the corners of a zip lock bag and get the same result. Torch the top of the meringue with a culinary torch.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Blackberry Mousse Cake



When we were in L.A. over the holidays, my in-laws gave me a shopping spree at Surfas Culinary District for Christmas. Imagine a big warehouse stocked with anything a chef or a baker could ever want or need. Let's just say I was in baker heaven. One of the things I picked up were these cake rings for making mousse cakes, and this past weekend I finally tried it out.




Since it was my first time making a mousse cake, I thought I'd share what I learned:

- You will need either a cake ring or a spring form pan, so that you can release the sides easily. If you use a cake ring, make sure you have a cake round to put underneath. 

- To get those nice and sharp edges, you can cover the inside of the pan with plastic strips, called acetate sheets. Those are the clear ones you usually see on mousse cakes in bakeries. I've heard that plastic wrap around the cake ring should work too, but it might leave marks if you don't get it on smoothly.

- Let the berry syrup and gelatin mix cool slightly but not set, since whipped cream doesn't like heat.

- When making the mousse, fold the whipped cream very gently into the berry-gelatin mix. Use a spatula and fold around the sides of the bowl and over. You want to make sure you don't over mix, which will cause the mousse to get runny.

- Freeze the mousse cake before removing the cake pan and plastic strips to get a smooth finish on your cake. Since I missed this memo and only chilled mine, it got a sponge-like look. Note to self: freeze the mousse cake!




You can use your favorite recipe for a cake, and cover it with mousse to make a stunning (and yummy!) presentation. Make sure you make the cake smaller than the cake ring you are using, since you will want the mousse to cover the sides. I made a 4 inch cake inside of a 6 inch mousse ring. This one is a vanilla sponge cake, filled with a blackberry syrup and lemon curd, and topped with a chocolate ganache. Since the mousse has such a light and delicate blackberry flavor, I thought the lemon was a little overpowering. Next time I will go for a more subtle filling, like vanilla or chocolate.




Blackberry mousse

350 g blackberries
2 tsp sugar 
100 g confectioners sugar
4 gelatin sheets or 2 tsp gelatin
350 g heavy cream


Directions:

  1. Put the blackberries and sugar in a pan and bring to a boil. Mush the berries with a fork.
  2. Remove from heat and strain the pure into a bowl. Let cool.
  3. Reheat a little of the pure and mix with the gelatin. Mix the remaining blackberry with the confectioners sugar. Blend the two pures together.
  4. Whip the heavy cream and gently fold it into the blackberry pure. 
  5. Pour into a prepared mousse cake ring or spring form pan, and freeze for at least 4 hours.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Swedish Semlor



Today is Fat Tuesday, or as we also call it in Sweden, Semledagen (Semla Day). Semla is a delicious pastry made out of a cardamom bun, filled with almond paste and whipped cream. It's so popular, I would call it more of a semla season rather than day. My dad would start baking these at least a week ahead, and we would have them every night for fika until we ran out. And then he'd make some more.




Now, there're semlas and there are semlas. This recipe knocks it out of the park with its home made vanilla and cardamom custard almond paste. Making your own almond paste is super easy, fun, and it tastes better than the store-bought version.




The mommies from the playground put together a Valentine's Day party for the kids today, so the boys and I brought these heart shaped semlas as a treat. Sharing is encouraged with these, because it's easy to have one, and then another...




Semlor
from Roy Fares


Dough 

200 g of milk
260 g flour
30 g yeast

Warm the milk to lukewarm. Then mix it with the flour and yeast and run it in a kitchenaid with a hook until it form a dough, let rest for about 15 minutes.

Add

160 g wheat flour
55 g egg (1st)
2 g salt
5 g ground cardamom
100 g butter - room temperature
85 g granulated sugar

Mix in the remaining ingredients on low speed then a little faster in about 7-10 minutes, until the dough is shiny and elastic. Divide the dough in 14 equal pieces about 60 g / pc. Round the buns with your hands and place on baking sheet with parchment paper. Let rise under a cloth to double size of about 1.30 to 2 hours. Bake in the oven at 210 degrees and bake for about 8 - 10 minutes, until the bun got a nice golden brown color.


Almond paste

200 g almonds - blanched
200 g caster sugar
possibly some water


Boil some water and pour over the almonds and let them soak for 15 minutes or overnight. Pour the almonds through a sieve and let drain. Add almonds and granulated sugar in a food processor and blend until the almonds begin to feel smooth and delicate, perhaps you may need to add some water if it feels dry. Knead the almond paste and wrap in plastic, store in the fridge.


Almond filling

400 g almond paste (the one you made above)
5 g ground cardamom
70 g of egg yolk (5)
90 g granulated sugar
30 g corn starch
1 vanilla pod
250 g of milk
15 g butter - unsalted

Mix the cardamom, egg yolks, sugar and corn starch in a bowl. Split the vanilla pod lengthways, scrape out the seeds and add them in a saucepan with the milk. Boil, stirring, and then pick up the pod. Pour the hot milk mixture into the bowl with the egg yolks and mix well. Pour everything back into the saucepan and heat over medium heat and constant stirring until it becomes a thick fine vanilla cream. Pour the cream into a bowl, add the butter and mix. Cover with plastic and let cool in the refrigerator at least 2 hours. Then mix little by little of the custard with the almond paste to a smooth and delicate cream.

1 l cream - whipped (should be on the semla)


Assembly

1. Cut into the bun with scissors a triangular top
2. Fill the hole with cream
3. Pipe on some cream
4. Put on the top and dust some icing sugar

Monday, February 08, 2016

Penguin Cake



This weekend I got to do this cute chocolate cake for our sons' buddy Tristan, who's favorite animal is penguins. I love making surprise cakes and seeing those happy smiles!




This cake was all chocolate, which is Tristan's favorite. I dressed it with fondant and piped a fuzzy fur with buttercream that I had colored. I also made a glittery snow base for the cake using fondant and clear sprinkles.

Wilton has come out with a new set of colors to color fondant and buttercream with, called Color Right Performance Color System. It includes eight ultra-concentrated colors that can be mixed into any hue you want, and you only need to use a tiny amount. This was my first time using it, and I love it! I can't wait to try and blend my own colors, especially those hard to find pretty pastels.




If you're looking for a great chocolate cake recipe, check out this recipe I posted a while back!


Monday, February 01, 2016

Buttercream Rose Cake



With all of the snowy and rainy weather we've been having this past week, it feels like spring can't come soon enough. So, as a Monday pick-me-upper, I thought I'd share this colorful buttercream rose cake I made a little while back for our friends Jim and Andrea's engagement party.




Aren't these roses pretty? Wilton has a great tutorial on their website on how to make buttercream roses. This was my first time making them, and it's actually not that hard to make with the instructions at hand. You will need a so-called flower nail, but they are super cheap and can be purchased at any craft supply store or baking store. Now, imagine how pretty these roses would be on mini cupcakes! 



Saturday, January 23, 2016

Swedish Citronkladdkaka with Blackberry Syrup



Happy snow day! I hope my East coast friends are all snuggled up cozy and warm with a hot cop of coffee or tea. This little snow-inspired cake is delicious and so easy to whip up. Perfect for a day like this!




This was the first time I tasted a kladdkaka made with anything but the traditional chocolate, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. The lemon version was gooey, but light, and not too heavy like flourless cakes sometimes can be. Besides, anything sweet made with lemon is a thumbs up in my book.




The original recipe doesn't call for syrup, but I had some blackberries at home and thought it would be a nice touch to the lemon flavor. And it was delicious! I also used some graham crackers as a crumb coating for the spring form pan. Because, why not?





Stay warm, and have fun baking!


Citronkladdkaka
from Hembakat

1 lemon 
150 g butter
3 eggs 
270 g sugar (1 heaping cup)
2 tsp vanilla sugar*
150 g flour
powdered sugar for garnish

*you can substitute with 1 tsp of vanilla extract


Blackberry syrup

1/2 cup blackberries
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cornstarch and  1 tsp of water


Directions:

For the blackberry syrup:

  1. Put the rinsed blackberries and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and mush the berries with a fork. Mix the cornstarch with 1 tsp of water, then add to the berries and stir. Let simmer for a couple of minutes.
  2. Take out a clean bowl and put a fine mesh strainer on top. Pour the syrup into the strainer and press the mushed berries. Let cool.

For the kladdkaka:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wash the lemon and pat dry. Zest the lemon and squeeze out 2 tbps of juice.
  2. Melt the butter. Add all the ingredients and stir until smooth.
  3. Pour the batter into a greased and floured spring form pan. (I used graham cracker crumbs as coating instead)
  4. Put the blackberry syrup in a zip lock bag and cut a small hole in one corner. Gently squeeze thin horizontal lines across the batter. Take a toothpick or a small pairing knife and run vertically trough the lines. First downwards, then do the next one upwards and continue until you have created a pattern over the whole batter.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes, and then let cool. Remove from pan and dust with powdered sugar along the edges. It's delicious when served with whipped cream!


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Meringues




"WOW!" You should have seen the kids this morning, when I showed them what I had been up to last night. These bright, colorful sweets are bound to make anyone smile.

I don't know about the US, but in Sweden, meringue desserts like Marängswiss (Ice cream with bananas, chocolate sauce and meringues) where huge in the 1970-80's, and I remember those little crunchy meringues being such a treat. Now they're back in the spotlight again, this time in all different colors, used for decorating cakes and tarts, or just to be eaten by themselves.




Since this was my first time making meringues, I searched the web for recipes and insider tips and tricks. I found one by the Meringue Girls, that I found to be easy, fun and straight forward. Here are a few useful tips I learned:




1) Fool proof recipe is 2:1 ratio of sugar and egg whites. That's all you need!

2) Make sure not to get any egg yolk in the egg whites you're using. A tiniest amount of yolk will mess up your meringues. A lot of people use liquid egg whites you can buy in a box, but make sure it's the 100% egg whites version, that doesn't have any additives. (If you don't know what do do with left over egg yolks, whip up some delicious vanilla custard, or why not some lemon curd!)

3) Make sure that the bowl and whisk you are using is completely free from any type of grease by using a half lemon to rub over all the surfaces. Avoid using plastic bowls as these can harbor traces of fat. Dry with a paper towel to remove any moisture. The smallest amount of grease or moisture will prevent the egg whites from getting stiff.

4) Heat up the sugar before adding to your egg whites to create glossy, beautiful meringues.

5) Oh, and if you have any, use disposable plastic gloves when dealing with the food coloring. I forgot, and by the look of my fingers, I'm turning into an avatar.





Meringues
by Meringue Girls

500 g sugar
250 g egg whites
food coloring


  1. Preheat your oven to 390 degrees F (200 C). Line a small baking tray with baking parchment, pour in the caster sugar and heat it in the oven for 7 minutes. Heating the sugar helps to create a glossy, stable mixture. 
  2. Pour the egg whites into a mixer and whisk them slowly, allowing small stabilizing bubbles to form, then increase the speed until the egg whites form stiff peaks. 
  3. Take the sugar out of the oven, and turn oven down to 210 degrees F (100 C). With your mixer on full speed, very slowly spoon the hot sugar into the beaten egg whites, making sure the mixture comes back up to stiff peaks after each addition of sugar. Once you have added all the sugar, continue to whisk on full speed until you have a smooth, stiff and glossy mixture. You should continue to whisk for at least 5 minutes once sugar has incorporated. Feel a bit of the mixture between your fingers; if you can still feel the gritty sugar, keep whisking at full speed until it has dissolved and the mixture is smooth, stiff and glossy. You are ready to go!
  4. Paint the inside of your piping bag with food coloring by turning the bag inside out first. We usually do about 4-5 spaced out stripes. Turn outside in again, and spoon your meringue into your disposable piping bag and cut the tip off. Pipe out your kisses by keeping the bag tight, straight and directly above your baking tray. Squeeze from a 3/4 inch hight from the baking tray and then let go before pulling up to form the lovely peaks. Place in the oven. We like to keep our meringues mallowy and soft in the middle, so take them out of the oven as soon as they lift off the baking paper with the base intact, about 35-45 minutes.




Friday, January 08, 2016

Wienerbröd (Danishes)



Flaky, buttery, vanilla-creme goodness is a great way to start off the new year, if you ask me. Danishes, or Wienerbröd as we Swedes call them, is a popular pastry on the fika table. We used to get them all the time growing up, and to this day it gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling whenever I have one. 

This wonderful recipe makes danishes that are airy and flaky on the outside, while rich and buttery on the inside, just like the ones you would get from a bakery. You can use different fillings, such as chocolate, raspberry, strawberry or blueberry jam, or you can go Swedish style and stick to the vanilla custard. Either way, it's delicious. 




Look at all those beautiful layers of puff pastry! It comes from folding and rolling out the dough several times. This was the first time I made my own puff pastry dough, and even though it's time consuming, it's not hard. It uses only a handful of ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry. So, as long as you follow the steps and make sure that all of the ingredients and the rolling pin are chilled, you'll be fine. If there is one thing I struggled with, it was making the danishes look pretty. They kind of want to do their own thing!






Here's an easy step-by-step tutorial for you, so you can enjoy this lovely pastry, too! Happy baking!




Wienerbröd
from Hembakat

Makes 18 danishes

50 g fresh yeast
250 ml milk
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
480 - 600 g flour
400 g butter

Icing
200 g icing sugar
milk (as little as needed to create a slowly running consistency) 


(For the vanilla custard/crème anglaise recipe, see this post.)


Directions:

1. Make sure all of your ingredients are cold (I'm talking flour, sugar, everything!). I put mine in the fridge the morning of baking. Oh, and per other bakers' advice, I even put the rolling pin and baking sheets in there. 

2. Now for the dough: crumb the fresh yeast into a bowl. Add the egg, sugar, salt, and flour, a little bit at a time. The recipe calls for between 480 g to 600 g flour, but I ended up using the lower amount. Quickly form it into dough, then let it rest in the fridge for 10 minutes.



3. On a floured surface, roll the dough out into the shape of a rectangle, about 12 x 16 inches in size.
Cut the butter into thin slices, and arrange them on one-half of the dough. Leave about 1 inch on each side and fold the edges over the butter.




Fold the other half of the dough over the buttered side, and pinch the edges together.




4. Turn the dough 90 degrees, so that the folded edge is towards you. Gently roll out the dough to a rectangle again, to about 3/4 of an inch in thickness.




5. Fold the dough in three parts (like you would with a business letter), and turn it so that the folded edge is towards you. Once again, roll the dough into a rectangle and fold it in three parts. Repeat this procedure two more times, then put it in cling wrap and let rest in the fridge for 15  minutes.




5. Remove from the fridge and roll out the dough into a rectangle, a little less than 1/2 inch in thickness. Cut it into 1/2 inch wide strips.




Twist the strips and shape them into the shape of the number eight.




Put them on a baking sheet, that has been lined with parchment paper. Let rise covered with a kitchen towel for about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 435 degrees.




6. Put some vanilla custard in the two holes of the shape. I prefer using a decorating bag, but you can also use a zip lock bag that you cut a small hole in. Bake for 8-10 minutes in the oven, and let cool on baking racks.




7. For the icing, mix icing sugar with milk and swirl over the danishes, again using a decorating bag or a zip lock bag.




Give it a few more minutes to set, and then, enjoy!