Monday, August 28, 2017

Cocoa Pomegranate Pavlova

This comes from one of my favorite winter cookbooks, Wintersweet. Pavlovas are not that difficult to make, but this one has a lot of nuance from the combination of cocoa, cardamom, and balsamic. Don't leave them out, it is subtle and sophisticated. And this was a hit with my book club, even if I made it in the heat of summer.

Cocoa Pomegranate Pavlova

  • 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar (or a scant cup of superfine or caster sugar)
  • 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)

For the topping:

  • ¼ cup Pomegranate Jelly*
  • ½ pomegranate, seeded (½ cup of seeds)
  • 2 cups heavywhipping cream
  • ⅛ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons confectioners’ sugar


Preheat the oven to 350°F (l75°C). Trace a 7-inch (l8-cm) circle on a sheet of parchment paper in heavy-handed pencil using a bowl or cake pan as a guide. Flip the parchment paper over and set it on a cookie sheet (the circle should be visible through the paper).

For the pavlova, process the granulated sugar for 60 seconds in a food processor or blender until finely ground (superfine and caster sugar require no grinding).

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg whites on medium- high speed for 3 to 4 minutes, or until they form stiff peaks that don’t droop when the beaters are lifted.

With the mixer still running, add the finely ground sugar one tablespoon at a time, beating well, until the meringue is stiff and shiny. Once all of the sugar is added, beat the meringue for 4 to 6 minutes more on medium-high speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl, or until the mixture is no longer gritty when rubbed between your fingers. The mixture should cling tightly to the bowl and feel very dense. Sift the cocoa on top. Add the cornstarch, vinegar, and cardamom, if using. Fold everything together with a rubber spatula, rotating the bowl and using light, circular strokes that lift the whites from the bottom and deposit them gently on top of the dry ingredients, until no streaks remain.
Working quickly, dab dots of the soft meringue under each corner of the parchment paper to glue it down so it doesn’t slide around annoyingly while you’re trying to work. Mound the meringue within the marked circle in a big pile. Smooth it into a circular pillow about 2 to 3 inches high with a slight depression in the middle. Don’t bother trying to make it look too perfect—it should be free-form. The batter will spread a bit during baking.

Place the pavlova in the oven and immediately turn the heat down to 300°F (l50°C). Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the meringue is set and crisp on the outside, but the center still feels soft underneath. Do not open the oven door until the very end. I know the suspense is killing you, but the more you check, the more it’s going to want to sink and the more you’re going to want to check it again. Where does it end? When it’s finally done, turn off the heat and let the pavlova sit in the oven, with the door propped open with a wooden spoon, to cool down slowly. Remove the pan from the oven when it is completely cool. (The pavlova can be made up to a day ahead of time. Cover it gently with plastic wrap and store it at room temperature.)

At this point, the pavlova should not look particularly pretty. It will likely be cracked and fissured like a volcanic crater, with the center threatening to collapse. All normal. When ready to serve, loosen the pavlova from the parchment paper with a spatula, and gently transfer it to a serving plate or cake pedestal.

For the topping, warm the pomegranate jelly in a microwave or in a small pot on the stove just until loose. Whisk in up to a teaspoon of warm water to loosen the jelly to a syrupy consistency. Drizzle the pomegranate syrup over the middle of the pavlova. Sprinkle half of the pomegranate seeds over the syrup.

In a medium bowl with a whisk or an electric mixer, whip the cream with the vanilla and confectioners’ sugar until soft peaks form and the cream mounds nicely in a pile, 1 to 2 minutes. Mound the cream on top of the pomegranate topping, and sprinkle with the remaining pomegranate seeds. Serve right away.

*Don't want to make pomegranate jelly? I used red currant this time around. Cherry would be fine too!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Lime Yogurt Bread

I originally made key lime yogurt cake with raspberry coulis ribbon back in 2009, after seeing it on the blog formerly known as Culinary Concoctions by Peabody, now Sweet ReciPEAs. I needed to make a quick bread for an orientation offered by the library, and pulled the recipe back out. I had even more limited time, so I simplified it a bit both with ingredients and parts, and thought I'd share it again. After all it's been eight years! Eight! Years!

Lime Yogurt Cake
(based on Peabody's original and recommended key lime and raspberry yogurt cake)

1 ½  cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
8 oz. key lime or lime flavored yogurt*
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 large eggs
2 tsp grated lime zest
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
¼  cup vegetable oil
¼ cup cream cheese**
1/3 cup lime juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium sized bowl.

In another bowl (large), whisk together the yogurt, cream cheese, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lime zest, and vanilla.

Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.

With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it's all incorporated.

Pour the batter into the pan. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lime juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lime-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.

JennyBakes' notes:
* - Peabody uses vanilla or plain but I thought this would be an easy way to increase the flavor profile of the lime
** - Peabody uses mascarpone but I find it difficult to locate in the summer. I used one of the spreadable pots of cream cheese, or room temperature brick cream cheese would be fine. You can also make mascarpone from scratch, but I was going for easy and with only 1/4 cup, it wasn't going to make or break the bread!

This would probably work with different citrus combinations, definitely lemon, but lime is more interesting!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Apricot Clafouti

Apricot season! Is there any better time? I know it's here when there is a practical avalanche of almost overripe apricots in the produce section. It only lasts a week or so but I was lucky enough to catch it this year. And then I went looking for apricot recipes and decided to make this one.

So many apricot recipes calling for fresh apricots really have you make a jam first. What's the point? I wanted a dish where you could see and taste the actual apricot.

What is the difference between clafouti and cobbler? I think the real question is the difference between a clafouti and an oven pancake. There is slightly more sugar and slightly less flour in a clafouti, and it takes almost twice as long to bake. And when you add this amount of fresh fruit, it takes even longer to get it to brown on top. I could have baked this another ten minutes.

Apricot Clafouti
(recipe from Real Simple)

Unsalted butter, for the pan
1/3 cup granulated sugar, plus almost as much more for the pan
3/4 pound apricots (about 5), pitted and halved
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup half and half
2 eggs, lightly beaten
powdered sugar and/or whipped cream, for serving
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Coat a shallow 8-inch ovenproof round dish with butter and sprinkle lightly with sugar.
  3. Place the apricots in the dish in a 
single layer.
  4. Whisk together the flour, sugar, vanilla, half-and-half, and eggs in a bowl until smooth. Pour over the apricots and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until puffed and golden. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with whipped cream.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Chewy Brownie Cookies

I took a screenshot of this recipe once when someone posted it to Litsy, the social media app for book nerds (not a paid advertisement.) When I participated in the 24in48 readathon a few weeks ago, I listened to an audiobook while making these cookies, a practice we in book nerd land call "audiobaking." (There is also "audiocoloring" and "audiocleaning.") I'm pretty sure this recipe originates with Crisco the corporation considering that they refer to it by brand name, and I'm also pretty sure that the chewy texture is largely due to the combination of a lot of sugar plus the Crisco (not a paid advertisement.) So this is one case I wouldn't replace with butter. I made these on a Sunday and they were still soft enough on Wednesday to bring to a work party.

Chewy Brownie Cookies

1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
2/3 CRISCO stick or 2/3 cup CRISCO Shortening*
1 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 cups (12-oz package) semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Heat oven to 375 F.
2. Combine brown sugar, shortening, water, and vanilla in large bowl. Beat at medium speed of electric mixer until well blended. Beat eggs into creamed mixture.
3. Combine flour, cocoa, salt, and baking soda. Mix into creamed mixture at low speed just until blended. Stir in chocolate chips.
4. Drop rounded measuring tablespoonfuls of dough 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheet. 
5. Bake one baking sheet at a time for 7-9 minutes or until cookies are set. Do not overbake. Cool 2 minutes before moving to cool completely.

JennyBakes' notes:
*I use butter flavor, not sure it makes any difference
I find this dough to be a little thinner than regular chocolate chip cookies, probably due to less flour, but this is all about texture so don't add more than it says to. 
Note from person I took recipe from: "Don't scoop too big, or it will be difficult to tell when they're finished baking."