{Introduction to Pastry} – Salt and Spices

spices

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Salt

We all know what salt tastes like and how adding it to a recipe influences the taste, but salt is more than just a seasoning or flavor enhancer and it has a far more important role in some recipes than you might think. When I first started baking, I thought salt should be my last ingredient to worry about, especially in sweets. But oh boy, how wrong I was!

Salt plays a very important role in the chemistry of a recipe and writing it on the ingredient list is not just a fancy thing to do, but it has a purpose. First of all, salt slows down the chemical reactions happening in the dough, including fermentation – this is why the amount of salt added to a bread recipe is crucial. Bread recipes are usually well balanced and controlled – too much salt negatively affects the fermentation process and the dough won’t rise enough or not at all; if too little salt is added, the dough will rise too quickly, impacting the final taste, texture and crust of the bread. The recommended amount of salt to add to a bread dough is somewhere between 1 and 2% of the amount of flour used, depending on the type of bread and recipe.

Salt also makes the dough stronger by tightening the gluten structure, but it also impacts the shelf life of baked goodies because it absorbs water easily. Therefore, if the weather is humid, it will absorb water from the air and turn baked goodies that were supposed to be crisp into soggy, not so appealing food. But if the weather is dry, the salt holds water in the dough of batter, keeping it fresh for a longer time. Salt also helps the browning process in the oven and manages to reduce the oily taste of certain baked goodies. Tip: add a pinch of salt to your egg wash for a better browning.

But most of all, salt adds flavor to baked goods and it enhances the taste of certain ingredients, such as flour, butter, chocolate or lemon. It adds a certain edge that makes us crave for one more slice of cake or one more cookie, it’s the one ingredient that manages to bring everything together into a tasty, impressive dessert, balancing the sweetness. Needless to say that it’s the same with savory foods and recipes.

As for what types of salt to use, there’s plenty to choose from: kosher salt, sea salt, Himalayan salt and the very fancy fleur de sel. The thumb rule in baking however is to use a fine salt, no matter its type. If it’s course, it might not melt properly, leading to salty, crunchy bits in your batter or mousse.

Spices

Spices are plant or vegetable based compounds or substances used to flavor foods. This includes seeds, flower buds, roots or bark, some of them used in their natural form, some of them grind into a fine powder to be used in batters, creams or mousses. Whole spices have a longer shelf life, while ground spices lose their flavor quickly and can’t be stored for a long time. They are usually stored in airtight containers, in a cold, dark place.

A small amount of spice goes a long way so it’s important to keep the balance and use just the right amount. More vanilla in your cake batter may not impact the taste negatively, but too much ginger or lavender surely will so remember to keep the balance and use a little at a time.

If I were to consider my favorite spices, I’d probably go with vanilla and a mix of cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and nutmeg. But let’s look closely to the most used spices in the pastry kitchen, their characteristics and what they pair well with.

Vanilla

Found in pretty much every pastry recipe, vanilla has become the universal spice for a dessert. Vanilla, real vanilla – extract, not essence – comes from a tropical orchid in the form of a bean or pod and its the seeds that have the most intense aroma. As you might expect, good quality vanilla is pretty expensive, but it’s well worth the price! I prefer using vanilla extract in my baked goodies because it stores better than vanilla pods and it’s easier to use. Plus, I make my own vanilla extract at home so I get to control its strength and flavor well.

Vanilla can also be found in the form of a paste, which is more concentrated – usually 1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste equals 1 teaspoon of extract, but also in the form of a powder which is just as intense.

Vanilla pairs well with almonds, apples, berries, chocolate, cloves, coconut, honey, nutmeg, orange, peach, pumpkin and the list can go on. It’s probably the most delicate spice and its aroma enhances the other ingredients instead of overpowering them.

Ginger

Ginger is a plant whose rhizome is widely used as spice in baking and cooking. It seems that the plant is originated in south China, but it spread to India and from there to Europe through spice trades. It’s one of the most intense spices I ever used in baking and a little goes a long way, especially since it aroma is not on everyone’s taste.

Ginger can be found either fresh, powdered or candied, but each and every form has a different taste and intensity and can be substituted for one another, but with care and thought on the final taste. Fresh ginger is milder than powdered, ground ginger, but I also find it to have a much intenser heat to it, while ground ginger focuses on the flavor itself, leaving aside the heat. Candied ginger is something I have yet to try in a recipe, I find it to be too intense for my taste buds.

What I love about ginger is that it can be stored for a long time in a sealed bag in the fridge or it can even be frozen. It keeps up to a few weeks and it can also be used in tea or other drinks, not just breads, gingerbread or cakes.

Ginger pairs well with all-spice powder, almonds, star anise, cardamom, banana, nuts, caramel, chocolate, cinnamon, citrus, coconut, cumin, dates, hazelnuts, various fruits, pepper, pumpkin, raisins and vanilla, but it is also used in savory cooking, mostly in Asian or Indian recipes.

Cardamom

Found as a pod or as a powder, cardamom belongs to the same plant family as ginger. It comes from India, which is the larger producer and exporter or cardamom in the world. The pods are shelled in a paper thin outer layer, hiding inside a few small, black seeds. Interesting enough, cardamom is said to be the second most expensive spice, after saffron. But that’s real cardamom we’re talking about because the market nowadays is flooded with inferior types of cardamom which are cheaper, but don’t have the same flavor as the original Elettaria cardamom.

Its flavor is warm, with touches of eucalyptus and lemon and sometimes camphor. The pods can be used either whole or split for more flavor, but as a thumb rule, always remove the pods from the liquid or food you’ve been using them into because they tend to go bitter. Ground cardamom has an intense taste and heat, much like ginger and only a bit is enough to add plenty of flavor.

Cardamom pairs well with: apples, bananas, caramel, citrus, coconut, tropical fruits, almonds, chili, cinnamon, star anise, turmeric, chili, pepper, cumin, ginger and whole cloves.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is the inner bark of a tropical tree, originated in Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon. It has been used as a spice for centuries, being more prized than gold at some time in human’s history. Along with ginger, cinnamon reached Europe through the spice trades and it quickly gained terrain in recipes. At first it was used to flavor meat casseroles, cooked in one single pot with veggies, fruits and plenty of spices. Then the crusaders brought home sugar and soon the mince pie was born. No wonder that the Portuguese invaded Sri Lanka as soon as they had the chance, forcing the king to pay tributes made entirely of cinnamon. A century later, Sri Lanka was captured by the Dutch who established a cultivation system that still exists.

You will find two products on the market being sold as cinnamon: one is Ceylon cinnamon which is the real cinnamon and has a lighter color, but also a sweeter, more delicate flavor, and cassia, which is very similar to cinnamon, but the bark is thicker and the flavor is pungent, edgy. To distinguish the two you have to look at the way the bark is rolled: cinnamon usually rolls into one single quill and it’s thin and lighter, while cassia is usually rolled from both sides so it resembles scrolls, it’s thick and it has a dark color, it’s also cheaper and it is originated in China, not Sri Lanka.

Both cinnamon and cassia can be used in both baking and savory cooking. However, being far more delicate, cinnamon is preferred for desserts, such as cakes, puddings, chocolate dishes or fruits desserts.

Cinnamon pairs well with: apples, pears, citrus fruits, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, star anise, whole cloves, chocolate, pumpkin, caramel, coffee, chili, cumin, vanilla or turmeric.

Allspice

Allspice powder is a fairly new addition to my kitchen, but it’s growing on me. It takes its name from its aroma which smells like a mix of spices, mainly cinnamon, whole cloves, ginger and nutmeg with a touch of black pepper. The All-spice tree is originated in South and Central America where it used to grow wild. Nowadays, the trees are harvested.

The spice was brought to Europe soon after America was discovered, although it didn’t become as widely used as cinnamon or ginger, despite its intense flavor and resemblance with the previous named spices. The allspice berries resemble large peppercorns and can be found both whole and ground. They have an aromatic, intense flavor with nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and cloves as main flavors and pepper as the final touch.

Allspice pairs well with apples, pears, caramel, pumpkin, beets and chocolate.

Cloves

Originated in the Spice Islands of Indonesia, cloves seems to be one of the oldest spice in the world, records showing that Asians used it centuries ago to flavor food and as a cure for various health problems.

Cloves are the unopened flower buds of a tropical tree. Fresh, they are pink, but they turn brown once dried. Their flavor is warm, intense, edgy and they can easily overpower a dish, both in their whole or ground version.

Cloves pair well with: all-spice, apples, pears, beets, cardamom, cocoa, chocolate, citrus fruits, cumin, ginger, pineapple or other tropical fruits, star anise, turmeric, vanilla, mace or fennel.

Lavender

Native to the Mediterranean are, lavender is now a widely known spice used in desserts, although its uses don’t stop here. Soaps, shower gels, shampoos and other cosmetics take advantage of its amazing scent.

Lavender has a clean, flowery scent and taste and it pairs well with lemon, berries, vanilla or chocolate.

Mint

Here’s how the story goes: Minthe was a nymph who attracted the attention of Hades. But Hades’s wife, out of jealousy, attacked mint with the purpose to kill her. Hades showed up just in time and turned Minthe into a herb which was sacred to him. True or not, mint has been playing an important role in our lives for centuries, from the very common tea to various desserts and the praised chocolate-mint combination.

Mint pairs well with: chocolate, grapefruit, peaches, apricots, lavender, lemon, orange, lime and juniper.

Nutmeg

Originated in the Spice Islands, nutmeg comes from an evergreen tree who produces the spices only after fifteen to twenty years after planting. The same tree produces mace as well. Nutmeg is the seed inside the fruit and mace is the lacy covering of the kernel. Despite its name though, nutmeg is not a nut and it’s not a danger to those allergic to nuts.

Both nutmeg and mace have been used and appreciated since Roman times, but it is the Portuguese who held monopoly over the production of nutmeg, them being the ones to own the Spice Island. Th Dutch managed to draw them out of the Islands eventually, but they had the same strategy – keeping the source of nutmeg a secret and the price of the spice high. Pierre Poivre managed to smuggle a few seeds to Mauritius where they flourished, thus ending the Dutch monopoly. The British then introduced the spice to India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Grenada, all of them producing nutmeg at the moment.

Nutmeg is sold either whole or ground, but whole nutmegs are preferred because the flavor tends to deteriorate quickly. Whole nuts on the other side can be stored for indefinite time and just grated when needed.

The trick with nutmeg is that in larger quantities can be poisonous, therefore moderation is required when adding it to desserts. It’s sweet, aromatic, warm flavor is perfect for a large variety of desserts, from gingerbread to chocolate mousse or panna cotta.

Nutmeg pairs well with: all-spice, cardamom, carrots, cinnamon, cloves, coffee, ginger, cumin, peaches, pumpkin, orange and vanilla and it is used in desserts like gingerbread, biscuits or milk puddings, but also in dishes like risotto, fish soup or chicken patties.

Star anise

Native to China and Vietnam, star anise was introduced to Europe in the seventeenth century. The spice is the fruit of a small tree and, as the name suggests, it has a star shape with a few sections that encase the pods.

The taste of star anise is powerful, pungent, a bit similar to liquorice. The spice is used either whole or ground into a fine powder.

Star anise pairs well with: cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, citrus fruits, apples, pears or peaches.

Alcohols

Various alcoholic drinks can be used to flavor up desserts. The list includes liqueurs, wines and other alcohols, such as brandy or rum. The most common fruit-flavored alcohols used in pastry are: Cointreau, Grand Marnier, Triple Sec, cassis and blackcurrant liqueur. The list goes on with Amaretto, creme de cacao, creme de menthe, Kahlua, rum (light and dark), cognac, brandy, kirsch, Marsala and Madeira wine, but also homemade versions of the ones mentioned above.

ROMANIAN

Sare

Stim cu totii povestea Sarea in bucate si cat de importanta este sarea intr-o mancare ori un desert, dar sarea are si alt rol in afara de a potenta gustul mancarii, un rol la care nu ne gandim, dar merita constientizat, in special cand vine vorba de deserturi.

Sarea joaca un rol important in chimia unei retete si trecerea ei pe lista de ingrediente nu e un lucru intamplator. In primul rand, sarea incetineste procesele chimice ce se produc intr-un aluat, in special fermentarea. De aceea, retetele de paine sunt echilibrate si cantitatea de sare este controlata – prea multa sare poate afecta in mod negativ cresterea aluatului, dar si prea putin sare poate duce la o crestere prea rapida a aluatului si drept urmare, o textura diferita si o crusta nu prea aurie ori crocanta. Cantitatea recomandata de sare intr-un aluat (dulce sau sarat) este intre 1 si 2% din cantitatea totala de faina, depinzand de tipul de paine si reteta in sine.

Sarea are si rolul de a ajuta la formarea structurii de gluten intr-un aluat, dar are un efect si asupra umiditatii inmagazinate in paine, fursecuri ori tort. Daca vremea e umeda, sarea absoarbe apa astfel incat painea sau prajiturile pot avea de suferit. Daca umiditatea e scazuta insa, sarea ajuta la pastrarea umiditatii in produsul copt, astfel incat painea se pastreaza moale si prajitura nu se usuca excesiv.

Dar mai presus de toate, sarea imbunatateste gustul si potenteaza aromele, fie ca vorbim de o reteta sarata, fie ca vorbim de un desert. Fara sare, oricare dintre mancarurile pe care le savuram zilnic nu ar mai fi la fel de apetisante. Cat despre ce sare sa folosim, oricare e buna, sarea fina fiind insa recomandata pentru deserturi pentru ca se topeste mai repede. Pe langa sare fina se mai gasesc acum pe piata si alte tipuri de sare: gema, himalayana, afumata, cu diverse ierburi ori condimente.

Condimente

Condimentele sunt produse pe baza de fructe sau legume folosite pentru a da gust mancarurilor ori deserturilor. Unele dintre ele sunt folosite fie in starea lor naturala, intregi, fie sub forma de pudra, pasta ori extract, insa toate au in comun faptul ca rezista mult timp impachetate bine si sunt atat de intense incat o cantitate mica e suficienta pentru a aromatiza un tort, chec ori transa de fursecuri.

Vanilie

Folosita in majoritatea produselor de cofetarie ori patiserie, vanilia a devenit un condiment universal pentru deserturi. Vanilia adevarata – nu vorbim aici de esentele pe care le puteti cumpara in supermarketuri – provine de la o orhidee tropicala si se gaseste sub forma de pastaie a carui seminte sunt intens aromate. Vanilia adevarata, de buna calitate este foarte scumpa, fiind considerata al treilea cel mai scump condiment din lume dupa sofran si cardamom.

Eu prefer sa folosesc in deserturile mele un extract de vanilie pe care mi-l fac eu acasa, desi si cel cumparat e la fel de bun atata timp cat e extract natural. Pe langa extract insa, mai exista si pasta de vanilie care are o concentratie dubla in comparatie cu extractul, dar si pudra de vanilie.

Vanilia merge foarte bine cu migdale, mere, fructe de padure, nuca de cocos, miere, scortisoara, citrice, dovleac si lista poate continua. Este probabil cel mai delicat condiment pentru deserturi si pare sa fie si cel care leaga totul intr-un desert delicios.

Ghimbir

Ghimbirul este o planta a carui rizom este folosit drept condiment in prajituri sau mancaruri sarate. Planta este originara din China, dar s-a raspandit si in India si de acolo a ajuns in Europa prin schimburile de condimente. Este unul dintre cele mai inten aromate condimente, astfel incat o cantitate mica este suficienta pentru a aromatiza un desert.

Ghimbirul se gaseste fie proaspat, sub forma de rizom, fie pudra sau confiat, insa fiecare are o aroma diferita, si ca note de gust, cat si ca intensitate. Ghimbirul proaspat de exemplu este mai delicat ca aroma, dar mai iute decat cel pudra, care are o aroma mai intensa, dar nici nu e la fel de iute.

Ghimbirul proaspat, care se gaseste acum in mai toate magazinele mari, are viata lunga pastrat intr-o punga sigilata in frigider sau chiar congelator si poate fi folosit si in ceaiuri ori alte bauturi, el avand si importante calitati antioxidante.

Ghimbirul se potriveste foarte bine cu migdalele, anasonul stelat, cardamomul, bananele, caramelul, ciocolata, scortisoara, citricele, nuca de cocos, piperul, dovleacul ori vanilia, dar este folosit si la gatit, in special in retetele asiatice ori indiene.

Cardamom

Cardamomul face parte din aceeasi familie ca si ghimbirul si se gaseste fie sub forma de pastai, fie sub forma de pudra. Este originar din India, care a si devenit unul dintre cei mai importanti cultivatori si exportatori de ghimbir din lume. Si pe buna dreptate, caci cardamomul este al doilea cel mai scump condiment din lume dupa sofran.

Pastaile de cardamom sunt imbracate intr-o membrana subtire care ascunde inauntru niste seminte mici, negre, aromate. Parfumul si gustul sunt dulci, cu note subtile de eucalipt, lamaie si camfor. Pastaile se folosesc fie intregi, fie zdrobite, dar mereu trebuie scoase din lichidul pe care l-au aromatizat pentru ca tind sa devina amarui.

Cardamomul se potriveste cu merele, bananele, caramelul, citricele, nuca de cocos, fructele tropicale, migdalele, chili, scortisoara, turmericul, piperul, ghimbirul ori chimenul.

Scortisoara

Scortisoara este de fapt scoarta interioara a unui arbore tropical, originar din Sri Lanka, fosta Ceylon. A fost folosita drept condiment de secole intregi, fiind apreciata mai mult decat aurul in timpuri stravechi. Impreuna cu ghimbirul, scortisoara a ajuns in Europa datorita schimburilor de condimente si a devenit rapid un condiment de baza in bucatariile locale.

Astazi pe piata se gasesc doua produse vandute sub numele de scortisoara: unul este scortisoara de Ceylon care este adevarata scortisoara, are o culoare mai deschisa si o aroma mai delicata, mai dulceaga, iar celalalt produs este cassis, care seamana foarte mult cu scortisoara, dar este mai inchisa la culoare, are o aroma mai intensa, cumva mai grosolana. Puteti sa le distingeti prin faptul ca scortisoara este rulata intr-un singur strat si este mai subtire, in timp ce cassia, cunoscuta si sub numele de scortisoara chinezeasca, este rulata din ambele parti, obtinand un sul care seamana cu vechile rulouri de pergament.

Scortisoara se potriveste cu merele, perele, citricele, ghimbirul, cardamomul, nucsoara, ciocolata, dovleacul, caramelul, cafeaya, vanilia ori turmericul.

Allspice

Pudra de allspice este o noutate in bucataria mea, dar a inceput sa-mi placa mult. Numele acestui condiment provine de la faptul ca aroma sa aduce mult cu un amestec de scortisoara, ghimbir, cuisoare si piper.

Condimentul a fost adus in Europa imediat dupa ce America a fost descoperita, dar nu a prins la public la fel de mult ca ghimbirul sau scortisoara, desi se aseamana foarte mult cu acestea.

Boabele de allspice seamana cu boabele de piper si se gasesc fie in forma lor naturala, fie sub forma de pudra. Au un gust aromatic, intens, cu nucsoara, ghimbir, scortisoara si cuisoare drept arome principale si note de piper la final.

Allspice se combina bine cu mere, pere, caramel, dovleac ori ciocolata.

Cuisoare

Originare din Indonezia, cuisoarele sunt, se pare, unele dintre cele mai vechi condimente din lume, fiind gasite dovezi ale folosirii cuisoarelor inca de acum cateva secole.

Cuisoarele sunt florile nedeschise ale unui arbore tropical. Proaspete, ele au o culoare roz, dar devin maronii pe masura ce se usuca. Aroma lor este dulceaga, , intensa si poate cu usurinta sa acapareze aroma unui desert daca sunt folosite in cantitati mari.

Cuisoarele se combina bine cu allspice, mere, pere, cardamom, cacao, ciocolata, citrice, chimen, ghimbir, ananas si alte fructe tropicale, anason stelat, vanilie sau turmeric.

Levantica

Originara din zona Mediteranei, levantica este destul de folosita in deserturi, dar in cantitati foarte mici pentru ca are un gust intens. Gustul floral al levanticii se potriveste cu lamaia, fructele de padure, vanilia si ciocolata.

Nuscoara

Originara din Insulele Mirodeniilor, Indonezia, nucsoara provine de la un arbore mereu verde si se vinde fie sub forma de mici nuci intregi, fie sub forma de pudra, cu toate ca aceasta din urma are tendinta sa-si piarda repede aroma. Nucile intregi pe de alta parte rezista pe termen nedefinit.

In cantitati mari nucsoara poate fi otravitoare, de aceea moderatia este cheia cand o folositi in deserturi.

Gustul ei este dulcea, aromatic si se potriveste cu allspice, cardamom, scortisoara, cuisoare, cafea, ghimbir, chimen, piersici, dovleac, fructe tropicale, vanilie si caramel.

Anasonul stelat

Nativ din China si Vietnam, anasonul stelat a patruns in Europa in secolul al XVII-lea. Anasonul este fructul unui arbore de talie mica si, cum sugereaza si numele, are o forma de stea cu mici seminte inchise in colturile stelei.

Gustul este puternic, similar cu liquorice si se potriveste cu ghimbirul, cuisoarele, cardamomul, citricele, merele, perele ori piersicile.

Bauturi folosite in deserturi

Pe langa o intreaga colectie de condimente, dulapul meu magic mai contine si unele bauturi alcoolice perfecte pentru a aromatiza un desert. Cointreau, Grand Marnier, Amaretto sau rom sunt clasice si nu ar trebui sa lipseasca din nicio cofetarie. Pe langa asta insa, mai am si Kahlua, brandy, vin Marsala sau kirsch, dar si variante de casa ale celor mentionate mai sus – lichior de portocale, lichior de lamaie sau cafea.

Photo source: pexels.com

{Momofuku Pumpkin Pie Cake} – Tort cu dovleac

momofuku pumpkin pie cake

After two Momofuku cakes and a batch of cookies, it was time to make a third cake, one focusing on a flavor that is trending right now – pumpkin. I’m hooked on Christina Tosi’s recipes lately, but worry not, I will resume regular baking once I get this out of my system. Not that I’m complaining.. her recipes are amazing, easy to follow, texturized and absolutely delicious! And so much fun to make! Making these recipes has allowed me to discover new techniques and become more aware of what different textures can mean to a cake or how different tastes come together into the perfect dessert. It’s food for thought, beyond being a delicious cake to make!

This Momofuku pumpkin pie cake has one main ingredient that is found throughout the layers of the cake – pumpkin – first in the form of a pumpkin puree and second, in the form of pumpkin seeds (pepitas). The pumpkin puree I used was homemade, therefore the flavor was fresh and intense, but canned puree can be used as well. I have to say I fell in love with the sponge cake – never before I made a pumpkin cake that was this fluffy and fragrant. Usually this kind of cakes are moist, but slightly dense. Well, this one is the opposite and it’s definitely a keeper for other occasions too. Plus, the technique used to make the cake is quite interesting and although I had my fare share of doubts at first, now I trust Christina’s recipes more than anything.

I did make a few changes here and there, starting with the fact that I used less pepitas – which happened accidentally because I just bought a smaller bag at the store while the recipe calls for 250g of this delicious stuff. It’s still a bit too much I think, I only used 100g and I found them to add enough texture and taste, but feel free to add more if you make this cake. I also did a few changes to the graham crust crumbs, but nothing that would change the taste of the final cake.

{Momofuku Pumpkin Pie Cake}
 
Author:
Serves:: 9-10 servings
Ingredients:
Toasted Pepitas:
  • 100-200g pepitas
Milk Syrup:
  • 60ml milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pumpkin pie cake:
  • 115g butter, softened
  • 125g white sugar
  • 150g light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 25ml canola oil
  • 100ml buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 175g pumpkin puree
  • 230g all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg powder
Graham crust crumbs:
  • 140g all-purpose flour
  • 100g whole wheat flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 115g butter, melted
  • 20ml cold water
Graham Crust Liquid cheesecake:
  • 225g cream cheese
  • 100g white sugar
  • 6g cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 25ml milk
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ⅓ of the graham crust crumbs
Pumpkin ganache:
  • 150g white chocolate
  • 25g butter
  • 50g glucose
  • 55ml cold heavy cream
  • 75g pumpkin puree
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon powder
Directions:
Toasted Pepitas:
  1. Spread the pepitas in a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake in the preheated oven at 350F for 10 or until fragrant and golden brown. Allow to cool in the pan.
Milk Syrup:
  1. Combine the ingredients in a bowl and place aside until needed.
Pumpkin pie cake:
  1. Preheat your oven to 350F and line a 35x25cm pan with baking paper.
  2. Mix the butter in a bowl for 1 minute until fluffy and creamy. Add the sugars and continue mixing for about 3 minutes until light and pale.
  3. Stir in the egg and mix for another 2 minutes until well combined.
  4. With the mixer on, stream in the canola oil and buttermilk and continue mixing for 5 minutes until the mixture looks double in volume and has a very pale color.
  5. Stir in the vanilla and pumpkin puree, then add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg and mix just until combined.
  6. Spoon the batter in the prepared pan and bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes or until well risen and golden brown.
  7. Allow to cool in the pan.
Graham crust crumbs:
  1. Combine the flours, salt, cinnamon, ginger and sugar in a bowl.
  2. Drizzle in the melted butter and water and mix well until grainy.
  3. Transfer the mixture in a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake in the preheated oven at 350F for 20 minutes or until golden brown and crunchy.
  4. Allow to cool then take ⅓ of the mixture and place it aside.
Graham Crust Liquid cheesecake:
  1. Mix the cream cheese in a bowl until creamy. Add the sugar and mix for 2 minutes until fluffy.
  2. Combine the salt, milk, cornstarch, egg and vanilla in a bowl. Gradually pour this mixture voer the cream cheese, mixing all the time.
  3. Pour the cheesecake in a deep dish baking pan lined with baking paper and bake in the preheated oven at 330F for 15-20 minutes just until set, but not golden brown.
  4. Allow to cool in the pan then transfer in a bowl and stir in the graham crust crumbs.
Pumpkin ganache:
  1. Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a hot water bath just until smooth and melted.
  2. Transfer the chocolate in a tall container.
  3. Warm the glucose in a saucepan then pour it over the chocolate and pulse for a few seconds.
  4. Stream in the cold heavy cream and continue mixing then add the rest of the ingredients and pulse until smooth.
  5. Place the container in the fridge until needed.
To assemble the cake:
  1. Start by lining a 16cm cake ring with acetate sheets and place it on a platter.
  2. Take your pumpkin pie sponge cake and cut 2 16cm discs of cake. Using the cake leftovers, make a third layer of cake at the bottom of your cake ring. Brush the cake with milk syrup.
  3. Top the cake with ½ of the graham crust liquid cheesecake. Sprinkle ⅓ of the pepitas and ⅓ of the remaining graham crust crumbs. Top with ⅓ of the pumpkin ganache.
  4. Cover with another disc of sponge cake and brush it with milk syrup. Repeat the layers with cheesecake, pepitas, crumbs and ganache.
  5. Place the last disc of sponge cake on top and brush it with milk. Cover it with pumpkin ganache, followed by crumbs and pepitas.

momofuku pumpkin pie cakeROMANIAN

Nu e vreo surpriza ca imi plac retetele Christinei Tosi – Momofuku Milk Bar. Dupa doua torturi si o portie de fursecuri, iata ca a venit randul unui al treilea tort – de aceasta data cu un ingredient foarte actual, dovleac.

E un tort intens aromat nu doar cu dovleac, ci si cu diverse condimente, de la scortisoara, la ghimbir sau nucsoara. Dar ceea ce mi-a placut cel mai mult la acest tort este textura. Blatul pufos, crema fina si firimiturile crocante creeaza un contrast de texturi delicios!

Reteta o respecta in mare pe cea originala, cu mici schimbari ici si colo la cantitatile de zahar si de seminte de dovleac, dar nimic care sa influenteze in vreun fel gustul final al tortului. Ce obtineti in final e un tort stratificat, aromat, cremos si totusi crocant, un tort usor iesit din comun, dar care impresioneaza prin design si gust.

Ingrediente:

Seminte de dovleac prajite:

  • 100-200g seminte de dovleac decojite

Sirop de lapte:

  • 60ml lapte
  • 1 lingurita extract de vanilie

Blat cu piure de dovleac:

  • 115g unt la temperature camerei
  • 125g zahar alb
  • 150g zahar brun
  • 1 ou
  • 25ml ulei vegetal
  • 100ml lapte batut
  • 1 lingurita extract de vanilie
  • 175g piure de dovleac
  • 230g faina alba
  • 1 lingurita bicarbonat de sodiu
  • 1 lingurita praf de copt
  • 1 lingurita scortisoara pudra
  • ½ lingurita ghimbir macinat
  • ¼ lingurita nucsoara macinata
  • ½ lingurita sare

Firimituri crocante integrale:

  • 140g faina alba
  • 100g faina integrala
  • ½ lingurita sare
  • ½ lingurita scortisoara pudra
  • ½ lingurita ghimbir
  • 3 linguri zahar brun
  • 115g unt, topit
  • 20ml apa rece

Cheesecake lichid cu firimituri crocante:

  • 225g crema de branza
  • 100g zahar alb
  • 6g amidon
  • ¼ lingurita sare
  • 25 ml lapte
  • 1 ou
  • ½ lingurita extract de vanilie
  • 1/3 din firimiturile crocante integrale

Ganache de ciocolata alba si dovleac:

  • 150g ciocolata alba
  • 25g unt
  • 50g glucoza
  • 55ml smantana pentru frisca rece
  • 75g piure de dovleac
  • ½ lingurita sare
  • ¼ lingurita scortisoara

Mod de preparare:

Seminte de dovleac prajite:

  1. Puneti semintele intr-o tava si coaceti la 180C pentru 10 minute doar pana devin usor aurii. Dati deoparte.

Sirop de lapte:

  1. Cobinati ingredientele intr-un bol si dati deoparte pana la nevoie.

Blat cu piure de dovleac:

  1. Tapetati o tava de 35x25cm cu hartie de copt si preincalziti cuptorul la 180C.
  2. Mixati untul intr-un bol pentru 1-2 minute pana devine cremos. Adaugati zaharul si mixati aproximativ 3 minute pana devine deschis la culoare.
  3. Adaugati oul si mixati alte 2 minute pana e bine incorporate.
  4. Incorporati uleiul vegetal si laptele batut, turnandu-le treptat in timp ce mixati. Continuati sa mixati cel putin 5 minute pana compozitia isi dubleaza volumul si devine albicioasa.
  5. Adaugati restul ingredientelor, mixand doar cateva secunde, cat sa fie bine incorporate.
  6. Turnati aluatul in tava pregatita si coaceti 30-35 minute pana blatul creste frumos si devine auriu.
  7. Lasati sa se raceasca in tava.

Firimituri crocante integrale:

  1. Combinati cele doua tipuri de faina, condimentele, zaharul si sarea intr-un bol.
  2. Adaugati untul si apa si amestecati bine cu o furculita sau varfurile degetelor pana obtinti un amestec nisipos.
  3. Intindeti amestecul intr-o tava tapetata cu hartie de copt si coaceti la 180C pentru 15-20 minute sau pana devin aurii.
  4. Cand e gata, dati deoparte 1/3 din aceste firimituri pentru crema de branza. Restul vor fi folosite intre straturi.

Cheesecake lichid cu firimituri crocante:

  1. Mixati crema de branza 1-2 minute pana devine cremoasa. Adaugati zaharul si mai mixati 2 minute.
  2. Intr-un bol, combinati amidonul, sarea, laptele, oul si vanilia si amestecati bine. Turnati peste crema de branza in timp ce mixati.
  3. Turnati compozitia intr-un vas adanc tapetat cu hartie de copt si coaceti la 170C pentru 15 minute sau pana arata inchegat, dar nu auriu.
  4. Cand e gata, transferati intr-un bol si adaugati firimiturile crocante.

Ganache de ciocolata alba si dovleac:

  1. Topiti ciocolata si untul intr-un bol pe baie de aburi.
  2. Transferati ciocolata intr-un vas inalt pentru blender.
  3. Incalziti glucoza intr-un vas pe foc mic. Turnati-o peste ciocolata si amestecati cu un blender de mana cateva secunde.
  4. Adaugati in fir subtire smantana pentru frisca si pulsati bine pana obtineti un amestec fin si cremos.
  5. Incorporati restul ingredientelor si amestecati bine.
  6. Dati la rece pana la nevoie.

Pentru a asambla tortul:

  1. Incepeti prin a tapeta un inel de tort de 16cm cu folie de acetat.
  2. Taiat 2 discuri de blat de 16 cm. Luati bucatile de blat ramase si formati un al treilea disc de blat direct in inelul de tort montat.
  3. Umeziti blatul cu sirop de lapte folosind o pensula.
  4. Intindeti ½ din compozitia de cheesecale lichid peste blat. Acoperiti cu 1/3 din semintele de dovleac si 1/3 din firimiturile integrale ramase. Urmatorul strat de 1/3 din ganache-ul de ciocolata alba si dovleac.
  5. Continuati cu un nou disc de blat, apoi sirop de lapte, cheesecake lichid, seminte de dovleac, firmituri integrale si in cele din urma ultimul disc de blat, ganache-ul care a ramas, un strat de seminte de dovleac si inca un strat de firimituri crocante.
  6. Dati la rece cateva ore, preferabil peste noapte.

momofuku pumpkin pie cake

{Orange Roasted Pears with Homemade Ricotta and Cinnamon Streusel}

orange roasted pears

Inspiration comes from simple things, comes from a beautiful ingredient you buy at the market, something you see in the park, something my child says in his witty, funny, cute way, from a gorgeous picture I might see online, a commercial or ad, an idea someone throws at me or from a plate or food prop I happen to stumble on in a store. The latter is just what happened with this dessert. I  found an amazing store with all sorts of gorgeous plates, glasses and other cool kitchen gadgets.. And there were these beautiful, tall, dark glasses almost calling my name, waiting to be taken home.. It was love at first sight, I knew right away what dessert I was going to make to complement the beauty of these glasses. I wanted something decadent, flavorful, rich, buttery, but also something I could call comfort food. And that’s how these orange roasted pears with homemade ricotta and cinnamon streusel were born.

The first flavor that comes through when first tasting this dessert is cinnamon. But then orange kicks in and it all lingers on your palate when the ricotta and cream begins melting in your mouth. Just a drizzle of honey makes this dessert even richer and it completes this autumnal array of ingredients and flavors like nothing else ever could!

{Orange Roasted Pears with Homemade Ricotta and Cinnamon Streusel}
 
Author:
Serves:: 4 servings
Ingredients:
Orange Roasted Pears:
  • 4 medium size pears
  • 2 large oranges, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 cardamom pods, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
Homemade Ricotta:
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 lemon, juiced
Cinnamon Streusel:
  • 150g all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 75g butter, chilled and cubed
You will also need:
  • ½ cup heavy cream, whipped
  • Honey to drizzle
Directions:
Orange Roasted Pears:
  1. Mix the orange juice, the two types of sugar, cardamom pods and orange zest in a deep dish baking pan.
  2. Carefully peel the pears and cut them in half. Remove the core and place the pears in the liquid you mixed above.
  3. Cook in the pre-heated oven at 350F - 180C for 30-35 minutes until the liquid is reduced and the pears are golden.
Homemade Ricotta:
  1. Mix the milk and cream in a saucepan and place over low flame. Heat the mixture up to 85C (if you don't have a theremometer, just make sure it's hot, but not as hot as to burn your finger). Turn the heat off and add the lemon juice. Mix a few times then allow to rest for 5 minutes.
  2. Strain through a very fine sieve lined with a cheese cloth and allow to drain for about 2 hours.
Cinnamon Streusel:
  1. Mix the flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt in a bowl. Add the butter and mix until grainy then spread the mixture in a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
  2. Bake for 7-10 minutes in the pre-heated oven at 350F -180C just until golden, crisp and fragrant.
To finish the dessert:
  1. Take 4 tall glasses and spoon part of the cinnamon streusel in. Add a dollop of ricotta and place 2 halves of pear on top. Finish off with a dollop of whipped cream and a drizzle of honey.
  2. Serve right away.

orange roasted pearsROMANIAN

Inspiratia vine din lucrurile simple, din ingredientele proaspete pe care le gasesc la piata, din zambetul si ideile piciului meu, din ceva ce am vazut in parc, din vreo fotografie pe care o vad online, din specificul anotimpului in care ne aflam, insa astazi totul a pornit de la un pahar! Da, de la acest pahar cu picior peste care am dat din intamplare intr-un magazin si care mi s-a parut atat de elegant si frumos incat a trebuit sa-l cumpar.

Mi-am dorit sa fac un desert decadent, dar nicidecum ciocolatos, un desert tomnatic, abundent in arome intense si ingrediente delicate, dar care sa ma duca cu gandul la un gen de comfort food. Si asa am ajuns la aceste pere coapte in sirop de portocale cu ricotta facuta in casa si streusel de scortisoara. Nu putea sa lipseasca mierea care intregeste intreg tabloul cu dulceata ei delicata.

In mod cert nu e un desert dietetic – ricotta cremoasa, frisca si mierea nu permit asta, dar e un desert care merita facut daca va doriti sa intampinati toamna cu zambetul pe buze. De fapt, daca ma gandesc bine, e desertul prin intermediul caruia incerc sa fac pace intre sufletul meu si acest nou anotimp pe care inainte sa-i descopar abundenta de fructe si legume, il uram din toti rarunchii… E toamna iar, in suflete si parcuri, dar nu o s-o las sa-mi strice buna dispozitie si cheful de munca!

Ingrediente:

Pere coapte in sirop de portocale:

  • 4 pere coapte, dar ferme
  • Sucul de la 2 portocale mari
  • 1 lingurita coaja de portocala
  • 2 linguri zahar brun
  • 2 linguri zahar alb
  • 2 pastai de cardamom, usor zdrobite

Ricotta de casa:

  • 3 cani de lapte integral
  • 1 cana smantana pentru frisca
  • Sucul de la 1 lamaie

Streusel de scortisoara:

  • 140g faina alba, cernuta
  • 1 praf de sare
  • 75g unt rece, taiat cuburi
  • 3 linguri zahar brun
  • 1 lingurita scortisoara
  • Veti mai avea nevoie si de: 1/2 cana smantana pentru frisca (batuta) si miere

Mod de preparare:

Pere coapte in sirop de portocale:

  1. Combinati sucul de portocale, coaja de portocala, zaharul alb si zaharul brun si pastaile de cardamom intr-o tava putin mai adanca.
  2. Curatati cu grija perele de coaja si taiati-le in jumatate. Inlaturati cotorul si puneti jumatatile de para in siropul de portocale.
  3. Coaceti pentru 30-35 minute in cuptorul preincalzit la 180C. Lasati sa se raceasca.

Ricotta de casa:

  1. Combinati laptele si smantana intr-un vas si puneti pe foc mic. Infierbantati la 85C (daca nu aveti termometru, incalziti pana la punctul in care e fierbinte, dar nu va arde pielea) apoi stingeti flacara si adaugati zeama de lamaie.
  2. Lasati amestecul deoparte 5 minute apoi strecurati printr-o sita fina tapetata cu o panza pentru branza.
  3. Lasati sa se scurga bine pentru 2 ore.

Streusel de scortisoara:

  1. Combinati faina, sarea, zaharul si scortisoara intr-un bol.
  2. Adaugati untul si amestecati usor cu varfurile degetelor pana obtineti o compozitie nisipoasa.
  3. Intindeti amestecul intr-o tava tapetata cu hartie de copt si coaceti 7-10 minute pana devine auriu si aromat. Lasati deoparte sa se raceasca,

Pentru a finisa desertul:

  1. Puneti 1-2 linguri de streusel intr-un vahar. Acoperiti cu 1-2 linguri de ricotta, apoi asezati 2 jumatati de para si 1 lingura de frisca. Mierea e ceea ce lipseste acestui desert pentru a atinge perfectiunea!
  2. Sa aveti pofta!

orange roasted pears

{Homemade Cinnamon Rolls} – Rulouri cu scortisoara

homemade cinnamon rolls

I get the “summer is ending” feeling lately and all I can think of is comfort food, baking with strong flavors, pears and spices, pumpkin and apples, pies and tarts and sweet dough rolled into amazing desserts. My birthday marks the end of summer which is a bit sad for me as I love the sun, I love being warm – the irony of life. Probably for this reason I baked these cinnamon rolls for my guest post swap with Matthew Ivan from Plating Pixels – he sent me the most amazing muffins this blog has seen and I sent him these homemade cinnamon rolls.

I must say I tried cinnamon rolls a few times before, but none of them were as good as these. Even this recipe had to go through 2 trials before being published – the first time I thought I’d skip using butter to spread over the dough and it wasn’t a great idea as they turned out a bit drier and definitely not as rich.

homemade cinnamon rolls

But with the addition of butter, cream cheese glaze and chopped walnuts, they are absolutely perfect. These homemade cinnamon rolls impressed me with their flavor, richness and fluffiness. But the moment you pour the glaze over each one is magnificent. I think it’s the glaze that makes them shine as bright as they are. It’s the glaze that add some extra moisture and richness so when you bite into one it’s pure joy for your senses – flavor wise and texture wise. Yes, they are sticky and messy, but oh boy, it’s worth it!

Click here to read my recipe for Homemade Cinnamon Rolls on Plating Pixels

homemade cinnamon rolls

{Pumpkin Orange Cake} – Tort cu dovleac si portocala

pumpkin orange cake3

I know, I know, the time of the pumpkin is over, it’s spring now, not fall, but here’s the thing: my grandma has her own tiny (not that tiny actually) garden and she grows pumpkins every single year. So a few months ago she brought me this huge, literally huge pumpkin which I stored on my balcony during winter and kept delaying cutting into it just because pumpkins are so hard to peel. And for that reason my pumpkin survived through fall and winter, but with the warm weather we had at the beginning of March, I thought maybe it’s time to cut it and use it because it wasn’t going to last for long. So we peeled it and turned it into one awesome traditional Romanian pie and I saved a few slices for a cake, thinking to make something more special out of it.

And so this cake was born – this spiced, moist, delicious cake filled with an orange mascarpone cream and topped with a silky chocolate ganache. The recipe is simple, but what makes this cake stand out is the mix between the fluffy, spiced sponges and the smooth, rich mascarpone filling. The chocolate glaze is not compulsory, but it works well in this combination. You are welcomed to skip it if you want a lighter, more refreshing cake though.

The pumpkin can easily be replaced with sweet potato puree, I find them to be quite similar in terms of moisture and consistency so I think they can easily substitute each other in any recipe that relies on their puree for a delicate flavor and moisture. One thing I wouldn’t replace is the cinnamon and ginger. In fact, I would top these with even more aromas, such as ground star anise or cardamom.

{Pumpkin Orange Cake}
 
Author:
Serves:: 8-10 servings
Ingredients:
Pumpkin Cake:
  • 300g white sugar
  • 230g butter, softened
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 280g all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 350g pumpkin puree
  • 50g walnuts, chopped (optional)
Mascarpone Orange Frosting:
  • 200g mascarpone cream
  • 100g white chocolate
  • 150g heavy cream, whipped
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Zest from one orange
Chocolate Glaze:
  • 60g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 60ml heavy cream
Directions:
Pumpkin Cake:
  1. Pre-heat your oven to 350F and line 2 18-cm cake pans with baking paper.
  2. Sift the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and ginger in a bowl.
  3. Mix the butter with sugar until creamy and fluffy, at least 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the eggs, one by one, then add the vanilla and mix well.
  5. Fold in the flour then add the pumpkin puree and slowly fold it in with a spatula. If you use walnuts (I didn't), now's the time to add them.
  6. Pour the batter into your pans and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until the cakes pass the toothpick test.
  7. Let the cakes cool in the pan completely.
Mascarpone Orange Frosting:
  1. Combine the mascarpone with vanilla and orange zest in a bowl and mix well.
  2. Fold in the whipped cream.
To assemble the cake:
  1. Cut each sponge in half to obtain 4 discs of sponge. Layer the sponge disca with 2-3 tablespoons of frosting.
Chocolate Glaze:
  1. Bring the cream to the boiling point in a saucepan.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in the chocolate.
  3. Mix well until smooth and creamy then pour the glaze over the cake.
  4. Serve the cake chilled.

pumpkin orange cake