Monday, April 29, 2013

Madrid Cake Expo: Exportarta 2013

From the 26th  till the 28th of April the Exportarta 2013 took place in Madrid which is the 2nd edition of this new annual cake exhibition!

I visited it twice: on the first  and the third days. It was just amazing, all the products a baker needs are there. Additionally, many artists exhibited their amazing work. These people are phenomenal, they are able to take a humble cake and transform it into a work of art.

I took some pictures during my visit to the expo. Definitely  there were so many cakes and cookies worthy of your camera, but I will leave you with some of my favorites hoping you will enjoy them as much as I did!

My favorite of the expo, hand-painted macarons!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Four layered strawberry tartelettes!

An assortment of mini strawberry pies

Strawberry must be one of my favorite fruits. I love their juicy tartness and their aroma that fills the air with an inviting and too hard to resist scent. Strawberries are one of the fruits that are great fresh on their own, but they become greater with a sprinkle of sugar as this enhances their sweet flavor.

I always look forward for strawberry season and when the season arrives I always keep some in my fridge to consume fresh during the day to benefit from the healthy dose of vitamins they contain  body or to use with the myriad of desserts these red berries go greatly with.

Decorate to your liking, strawberries offer you lots of possibilities

I also love pies or tarts whether a normal  sized tart  or mini ones as the french call them tartelettes.

So what better recipe for fresh strawberries than these cute tartelettes with pastry cream?
For the crust you need ( enough for 10 to 15 pieces):
  • 200 g flour
  • 100 g cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • 30 g sugar
  • dash of salt
  • 1/2 tsp lime zest
  • Beans of half vanilla pod (or vanilla extract)
  • Ice cold water
Combine flour, sugar, salt, vanilla and zest in a food processor, pulse until all combined. Add the butter and pulse again until you get a sandy mixture. Now you either can slowly add the cold water into the food processor, or transfer the mixture into a larger bowl and add the water one tsp at a time  and mix until the dough forms a ball. The quantity of water will depend on the flour and butter, I only needed to add one tbsp!
Form a disk and wrap it in plastic, put in the fridge for at least an hour (you can make it a day ahead).
Roll your dough and cut to fit into mini tart shells. Blind bake in a 180 C oven (preheated) for 10 to 15 min, until dry and with slight golden color on the edge!

The different components of  your layered tartelletes

For the pastry cream (creme patissiere):
  • 250 ml milk
  • 50 g sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 20 g corn flour
  • zest of a lime
  • few drops of vanilla essence
Heat the milk in a sauce pan, in a bowl whisk the egg with the sugar, lime zest, vanilla until almost double in volume, then add the flour. Mix well then slowly add the hot milk (not boiling) add it very slowly over the egg mixture, and whisk non stop! Put the mixture in the pan on soft heat and keep stirring, it will start thickening after few minutes. When it drops slowly from the spoon then it´s ready; it will continue cooking until it cools down so you don't want to get it too thick while it is still on the flame.

For the strawberry sauce:
  • 150 g strawberries
  • 40 g sugar
  • Tbsp lemon or lime juice
  • A vanilla pod (I used the one left from making the pastry)

Fruit, cream, fruit sauce and pastry shell, 4 layers for one great desset
Dice the strawberries and combine with the other ingredients and let it simmer on a very gentle heat for about 20 to 30 min. Make it a day ahead as this will allow all the flavors to combine and it will taste better.

Get your ingredient ready for the final assembly

Time to assemble:

Put about a teaspoon of the sauce in the bottom of the shell or the enough amount to cover the bottom. Cover with the cream and top with strawberry. I called this dessert as four layered strawberry tartellete because it has four layers from top to bottom: the fresh fruit on top followed by the rich smooth pastry cream and the refreshing strawberry sauce all carried by a buttery, fragrant and crumbly pie crust.

To prevent the strawberries from drying while they cool in the fridge you can brush with a glaze of heated strawberry jam or you can do what I did. I had around 4 tablespoons of juice left from the strawberry sauce, so I soaked 1/4 tsp of gelatin powder in a tiny amount of water, heated the juice and added the soaked gelatin and  stirred till  it dissolved well. I allowed the mixture to cool down before brushing it on the strawberries. This surely gives the fruits a beautiful shine and protects them from drying before you have the time to consume them all.

A note about decoration. There's really no rule for that, just do what feels more appropriate. I tried to make different patterns to inspire you, but I am sure you can come up with more creative ideas.

Beautiful, elegant and tasty tarts
And here you have it, a crumbly, creamy, tart and sweet dessert. It is really hard to resist!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Caramel au beurre salé or salted caramel!

Jars of delicious caramel, ready whenever you need to use it
Whenever you hear someone talking about caramel your taste buds are stimulated or whenever you come across a recipe that calls for the use of caramel you will know that for sure this dessert will be extra special. Take a humble dessert, drizzle it with some caramel sand immediately you will take it to a higher and more complex level.

Dark, creamy, aromatic, sweet but with a salty hint

Sugar caramelization started in France during the 17th century, and since then this creation has found endless uses and was featured in many recipes that took advantage of the unique flavors caramel imparts to recipes.

One of my favorite ways to enjoy caramel is through the traditional French recipe: caramel au beurre salé  which basically means salted butter caramel or simply salted caramel. It is made either with salted butter or you can add salt if you are using the more common unsalted butter.

A thick, decadent sauce that adds lots of flavor to many desserts

Here's an easy way to make this heavenly and decadent sauce. Be careful, the sauce is highly addictive.

Here's what you need to make almost 2 cups:
  • 150 g sugar (white granulated)
  • 40 g water
  • 60 g cold butter
  • 300 ml cream (35% fat content, or more)
  • 3/4 tsp fleur de sel (if not available use regular salt)
Combine sugar and water in a heavy bottom saucepan. Let the sugar dissolve completely without touching it, just swirl to make sure all the sugar melts. If you whisk the sugar while melting, this will not allow it to melt nicely, you will have clumps and crystals which will prevent you from having the smooth and creamy caramel you long for.

After few minutes on the stove the sugar will start changing color, when it reaches a nice amber color and you can clearly smell the characteristic caramel aroma, it's time to add the cold butter (it´s better if it's cold as this will stop the sugar from further cooking and burning) stir a bit then add the salt, as it melts at the end add the cream.  Be careful when you add the cream as it might splatter, so keep your face away! Stir well after adding the cream, and if you want a thicker caramel leave to reduce for few more minutes on a gentle heat to avoid burning your caramel.

Pour it in a glass container and let it cool. You can preserve it in an air tight jar and kept in the fridge.
Now you have a great sauce to goes really well with so many desserts!

Suitable for so many desserts, make sure to have some on standby!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Rice pudding, a childhood memory!

Cold, sweet, and refreshing rice pudding
As a child, rarely were the times where I opened the fridge and didn't find small cups of my mom's fragrant rice pudding.  When making yogurt, she would always set aside some milk to make this family favorite. What made her rice pudding special is the flavorings she added. Sometimes she would use rose water and cinnamon but quite often she would perfume the pudding with rose geranium leaves that impart a distinctive and very special taste to this humble pudding.

Rice puddings were enjoyed since ancient times, and it seems their roots were in grain pottages that were made by middle eastern cooks. Even in our modern times, rice puddings are extremely popular across the world with many variations and adaptations to suit local tastes.

As an international dessert, rice pudding is known through different names like kheer, firni, shola, to name a few. Probably the secret of this recipe's success is that from two basic ingredients you can create endless variations, and you can even create even a vegan version that uses milk derived from plants such as soy.

Rice pudding used to be recommended to people who had stomach illnesses for its easy digestion and health benefits so if anyone is looking for a delicious, nutritious and healthy recipe, look no further! 
Rice is the main ingredient of this dessert absorbs all flavors you add to it

For the classic rice pudding for two individuals you need:

  • 100 g of rice (I used jasmine rice)
  • 250 ml of milk (plus 3 to 4 tbsp water, the quantity of liquid will also depend on the rice type)  
  • 40 g sugar (I used vanilla scented)
  • 2 bruised cardamom pods (use 3 for more aroma)
  • 1 tbsp rose water (or more if you wish)
  • 1 tbsp cream (optional)

In a saucepan combine the sugar, rice, milk and cardamom, mix well and put on a medium heat.  When it slightly starts heating lower the flame and let it cook for about 1/2 hour, stirring frequently, when the rice is fully cooked remove the cardamom and add the rose water and cream (if you are using it). Though I believe the cream  adds more flavor and makes the texture more velvety you can skip it if you you are watching your calories.

Fill your pudding in the serving cups, let them cool down before you chill them. Rice pudding taste better the second day when it is set, cool and refreshing.

I like to decorate the cups before serving them with some coarsely chopped pistachio nuts and rose petals or small rose buds. Of course, you can decorate your cups anyway you see fit.

I hope you try this recipe, it is really easy and delicious and though this cold refreshing pudding is suitable for hot summer days it is enjoyable anytime of the year! Bon appetit.