Cake for a Non-Cake Fan

I was asked yesterday to bake a birthday cake, but was told that the birthday boy doesn’t like cake. Well, what kind of birthday cake is a non-cake, I thought? Then I remembered my bench partner in culinary school talking about a cake, but the way she described it, it was more like a pastry than a cake. We’ve never made it in class before so this is a first time for me. I started pouring through my library of recipe books for the cake recipe. It’s called a Saint Honoré cake.

To my surprise, I couldn’t find any recipe for it in any of my cookbook so I used my friend, Google Search, to find out what the dessert is all about and how to make it. In my search, I learned that the Saint Honoré cake is named after a French patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs.

This dessert is composed of several components, all of which I’ve learned in school so I just had to put them all together. Yeah, I knew it was easier said than done. The bottom layer is made with puff pastry, though in my search, I came across recipes that use pâte brisée or pie dough. I personally love puff pastry so I decided to use puff dough for my creation.

I like making my own puff dough, but if you’re pressed for time and need a good puff dough, skip the Pepperidge puff dough and get the puff pastry made by DuFour Pastry Kitchen. You can find it at Whole Foods Markets.

Next, I pipe a border of pâte à choux paste around the edges of the puff dough. From all the pictures I’ve seen, a Saint Honoré cake seems to be mostly round. This is going to be a rectangular cake since I don’t like wasting puff pastry :). So, since this is a rectangular cake, I decided to pipe more choux paste inside the rectangle so every cut of the cake will come with the choux pastry.

Now bake the prepared base until golden brown, like below. Sorry. It’s a bit ugly, but I figured it’s ok since I’m going to cover it up, uh I mean, decorate it later with cream puffs and caramel.

Use the remaining pâte à choux paste to make mini puffs, to be filled and used later. I like filling mine with bavarian cream.

Next, make the caramel and be careful not to touch the hot caramel. Use the caramel to attach the filled cream puffs to the edges of the baked puff / choux dough.

This next part is my improvisation. The original cake is probably filled with some other custard or cream filling. I filled mine with bavarian cream, piped whipping cream on top using a big rose piping tip, and then sprinkled some shaved chocolate. That’s it!

It’s not pretty but I think it’s going to be good eats! Can’t wait to taste it tomorrow.

 

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Fun with S’mores

Until a few months ago, my s’mores making experience was limited to the very rare times that I went camping. But in those few times that I did go, I remember sitting around a campfire with my friends and breathing in the enticing smell of roasted marshmallows on our sticks.

If you don’t like camping but like gathering around a campfire, you can always recreate that experience in your backyard. Firepits are now more affordable so what better way is there than to spend cool summer nights with family and friends roasting marshmallows over a firepit.

Because roasting marshmallows and making s’mores is such a fun activity for young and old, it’s becoming a popular addition in weddings and parties.

I recently had the pleasure of hosting a Hawaiian-theme s’more station at a Yelp summer event. It was a big hit with the guests! Here are some pictures from the party:

Chocolate, Spreads, and Toppings
Vanilla, Raspberry, Pineapple, and Strawberry Marshmallows
Vanilla, Raspberry, Pineapple, and Strawberry Marshmallows
S'more Station
S'more Station
Roasting marshmallows at dusk
Roasting marshmallows at dusk
S'mores Station
S'mores Station

If you didn’t make it to Yelp’s guest list for this party, come attend Li’l Puffs’ S’mores Tea Party at Satori Tea Company on Aug 28, 2011. Details are at http://dishcrawl.com/smoresteadeux.

Strawberry S’mores Tart

In honor of National S’mores Day, I wanted to make and eat s’mores. Of course, the traditional s’mores are easy to make and they’re always delicious, but since I have different flavors of marshmallows at my disposal, I decided to make my own twist of a Strawberry S’mores Tart.

The tart crust is made from graham crackers, but I added a little flour and bind it with an egg for a more cookie-like crust. The filling is velvety rich chocolate custard so a little slice of this tart will satisfy your sweet tooth cravings. Serve it with a cup of hot tea. Umm… I can’t think of a better afternoon teatime treat for myself today.

Strawberry S’mores Tart
Makes a 9″ tart

Crust:
1 package graham crackers (9 crackers)
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/3 cup all purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 large egg, beaten

Chocolate Filling:
1 cup sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
5 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping:
1 4-oz bag Li’l Puffs Strawberry Marshmallows, or more if desired.

Preheat oven to 325F.

Grind the graham crackers in a food processor into fine crumbs, or you can place the crackers in a ziploc bag and crush them using a rolling pin. Mix the ground-up graham crackers with the sugars and flour.

Cut the butter into the mixture using a pastry blender until the mixture looks like coarse sand.

Stir in the beaten egg and mix well. Press the mixture into a 9″ tart pan and set aside.

For the filling, mix all ingredients together except for the evaporated milk. Add the evaporated milk last and mix well.

Pour into the prepared tart pan and bake for approximately 45 minutes.

Check your tart at 40 minutes in case if it’s done earlier. The custard center should be puffed and jiggle a little bit when you lightly shake the tart pan. It will settle back down when it cools.

Cool to room temperature before adding the marshmallow topping. You can prepare up to this step a day ahead and refrigerate your cooled tart.

When you’re ready for the marshmallows, cut the 1-inch cube marshmallows into four pieces and cover the top of the tart with the marshmallows. Feel free to add more marshmallows if you love them.

The cut-up marshmallows will be sticky. That’s ok. Fresh marshmallows have a softer texture than store-bought marshmallows. Next, use a kitchen torch and roast the tops of the marshmallows gently so they puff up and turn a nice golden color.

Enjoy and Happy National S’mores Day! Hope you have a s’more delicious day!

Bak Kwa Macarons

I have to admit. When my friend at Little Red Dot Kitchen asked me to create a Bak Kwa French Macaron, I cringed. It’s not that I’m not a fan of sweet and savory. On the contrary. Let me explain why.

Bak Kwa is a Southeast Asian Jerky unlike any jerky that you’ve tasted in the US. It already is by itself a sweet and savory snack. I grew up in Singapore eating these treats hot off the charcoal grill. They’re great served that way so why spoil a perfect tasting snack? If you haven’t had bak kwa before, get some from Little Red Dot Kitchen and you’ll understand what I mean.

The other reason why I was a little skeptical at first is because these days, chefs tend to pair bacon with pretty much everything, even some that they don’t even pair well with. I thought this experiment is going to be one of those awful combinations.

I was forced to eat my words after making these macarons, happily though, I might add 🙂 The Bak Kwa French Macarons filled with champagne buttercream were delicious! I had to stop myself from popping those little delectable bites in my mouth.

Here is the recipe for the Bak Kwa Macarons. I decided to pair it with Champagne buttercream as I thought the fruity taste of the champagne would compliment the sweet and savory bak kwa.

Macaron Shells
(Makes about 60 mini macarons)

  • 150g egg whites (about 5 eggs)
  • 90g sugar
  • 180g almond flour
  • 250g powdered sugar
  • Drop of pink coloring gel paste
  • Bak kwa (about 2 oz)
Direction:
  1. Grind bak kwa in a food processor into very small pieces to sprinkle over your macaron shells. Set aside.
  2. Sift almond flour and powdered sugar and set aside.
  3. Place the egg whites in a stand mixer and turn on mixer to medium high. Add the sugar gradually to the egg whites and continue whipping until it forms shiny stiff peaks. Add the drop of coloring right before you stop the mixture.
  4. Add the sifted almond flour and powdered sugar into the meringue and mix. Do not fold.

    You need to knock out some of the air that you added to the meringue otherwise, your shells will look like mini volcanoes in the oven when you bake them. Stop stirring the mixture as soon as the mixture falls like a ribbon from the spatula.
  5. Pipe them using a round tip onto a parchment lined baking pan.
  6. Sprinkle the ground bak kwa over the piped shells. You can press the bak kwa bits so they adhere to the shells, but be careful not to puncture the shells.
  7. Let the shells rest for 30 minutes. While the shells rest, you can make the champagne buttercream with bak kwa filling (Recipe below).
  8. Preheat your oven to 300F, then bake the macarons for about 11-12 minutes or until the top of the shells don’t slide around on their feets when lightly touched.
  9. Let cool before removing from parchment.
Champagne Buttercream with Bak Kwa filling
  • 6 oz butter (3/4 cup) at room temperature
  • 1-1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons champagne
  • Bak kwa (about 2 oz, or more if desired)
Direction:
  1. Toast or grill the bak kwa, then grind in a food processor into very small pieces. Set aside.
  2. Whisk butter until light and fluffy.
  3. Add powdered sugar and continue to whisk until incorporated.
  4. Add champagne one tablespoon at a time while continuing to whisk.
  5. Finally add the finely ground bak kwa and mix well.
  6. The buttercream mixture will be very soft at this time so refrigerate it until it firms a little bit before piping it onto the macarons. After removing the buttercream from the refrigerator, whisk it for a couple of seconds to break any lumps that may have formed so you can pipe it easier.
Tip: 
Fresh macarons are crunchy. You need to refrigerate your macarons overnight or for 24 hours before serving them. Store them in an open container so no condensation will form on the shells. Remove the macarons from the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving to let the buttercream soften and come to room temperature. They will be chewy and delicious that you’d be wanting to eat another one.