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A great 2013 to come!

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It’s been a very tiring yet meaningful, fruitful Christmas this year, with so many restless working days and sleepless working nights. Yet, it reenforced me again that I love what I do knowing that many people (a crowd of picky, demanding foodies in HK) were eating my cakes to celebrate the festive season; knowing my pastries filled with labor-intensive love were delivered as lovely holiday gifts to ones beloved families and friends. I’m honored to be the one who made people happy and more merry on festivals like this.

Classics like red velvet cake, pecan pies, cranberry upside down cakes and chocolate tarts are always a hit during Christmas. And as usual, I love to add some of my own twists into those classic staples. My recent fave include red velvet chiffon cake with candied pecan Bavarian, and the sugary nutty gooey pecan pie with an extra touch of caramelized banana tucked underneath. I know, it’s totally against the trend of being light and  healthy. But hey, it’s Christmas! And it’s not so wrong with the nutrition packed wholesomeness of pecan and banana, right? Well, not too bad of a perfect excuse to indulge some real comfort dessert I guess

There’re so many other things I love making lately, and my fave of the fave must be the lusciously creamy lime tart. (I think i’ve lost count how many of lime tarts I’ve made in the past couple months:P and hope people who’re close to me have not got sick of them yet:p) The recipe is based on the Tartine’s cookbook with a few adjustments and modifications. I would proudly say that it’s my own recipe now!

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One of my dearest friends got married in 2012, we all made a trip to Sydney to be part of the warm, cozy and intimate wedding gathering and celebration. Definitely one of my highlight in 2012 as well, words can’t describe the words and blessing I have for her.

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Sorry for the cheesy quality for the pecan pie (absolutely no time for taking any good picture before having them delivered on time…not to mention styling before shooting… this is a last minute shot of a mini one as a little gift for my friend

pecan-pie1If you are a fan of this heavenly sticky rich pie, do try this recipe out! I always use the Chez Panisse recipe for my flaky tart dough, filling is adapted and adjusted from David Lebovitz’s recipe (who worked for Chez Panisse as well) then my favourite caramelised banana to add something extra in terms of both aroma and texture, in this case, creaminess that is. Of course, the banana part is totally optional, but I personally do love it in my pecan pie  A typical pecan pie filling calls for corn syrup or golden syrup, I sometimes use agave nectar in mine if I’m in the ‘make myself feel less guilty’ mood for its low glycemic index or grade B maple syrup for its unrefined nutritions with its charming deep, complex sweetness and aroma. And use coocnut flower sugar in place of the dark brown sugar. Those much healthy alternatives would just work as beautifully as the regular old sugar and syrup. It might sound a little redundant, but I like my pecan lightly toasted with a drizzle of clove honey and sprinkle of cinnamon and Fleur De Sel before going to the pre-baked pastry shell — yes, pre-baked! Some bakers prefer not to have the pastry blind-baked as they like the filling to fuse into the shell during baking; yet, I like my pastry to be perfectly cooked through, even to a point where it’s almost too dark brown before I put the filling in, so the pastry would stay crispy after it’s done, or even after it’s been sitting on the cake stand for a night

So here’s the recipe…once you have the pastry done, this is actually something pretty easy and quick  to whip up as the perfect festive dessert. And definitely, a crowd pleaser.

Flaky pastry: (I usually make more than I need, so I can use half, and save the rest in my freezer for later use! Talking about convenience!) (makes two 9″ inch pie or tart or galette)

2 cups of all purpose flour

12 tablespoons butter, unsalted, diced and keep it very chilled

1/4 cup iced water

1/4 tsp. sea salt, I still use Fleur De Sel here

1. scatter the chilled diced butter over the flour. (Using a food processor works best for this) Pulse the flour , salt and butter a few times or until it’s become a sandy mass with pea sized butter-flour chunks. Sprinkle the iced water in, pulse couple more times, or until the dough just start to come together. Do not over work, or the dough will be tough.

2. Gather the sandy dough together, divide into two. Shape each into a flat disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and let it rest in fridge for at least couple hours befre rolling.

3. When it’s ready to roll. lightly dust the counter top, the rolling pin and both sides of the dough. Before rolling, use even pressure to pound the dough a few times with the rolling pin. So now, it’s nice and pliable. Start to roll from centre, keep turning the dough from time to time to make sure it doesn’t get stuck with the rolling surface.

4. Roll into a even 1/8″ disk, large enough to cover the tart tin with over hang. Carefully brush away the extra flour using a pastry brush. Then transfer the dough onto the baking tin without stretching the dough. Pleat the overhang around the edge of the tin, make it as neat and nice as pssible.

5. Prick the bottom all over. Place back into freezer for at least 15 minutes to firm up before baking.

Filling:

3 medium eggs, preferably Japanese free range

120g brown sugar, or coconut flower sugar

180g corn syrup or golden syrup, or agave nectar, or maple surup

200g toasted pecan,(toasted with honey, cinnamon and Fleur De Sel in an preheated 180C oven for about 7-8 minutes), half very roughly chopped, and half whole

120 g finely chopped bitter-sweet chocolate, (I use 61% Valhrona, and I do not like using chocolate buttons)

2 tablespoons of melted unsalted butter

1/2 tsp fleur de sel

1 tsp. vanilla paste

1 banana, sliced, caramelised in a non-stick pan with a little sugar

*rum raisin is another good extra something that marry well with the others in this pie if you do use them, simply add two tablespoonful each of rum and water with 1/4 cup of golden raisins in a small sauce pan, bring to a boil and simmer for couple minutes, off heat. Let it sit overnight allowing the raisins to macerate. (Sounds a little time-consuming, but when you do, you’ll find it super simple and easy

1. Preheat the oven to 190C.

2. Bake the crust for about 35 minutes or until dark brown. Let it cool.

3. Prepare the filling: simply whisk all the ingredients for filling altogether until well mixed.

4. Pour the filling into the cooled pastry shell, bake for 35-45 minutes until filling is lightly puffed but the centre still looks moist. Let cool.

5. Garnish with dollops of whipped cream and extra candied pecans.

It’s a very rich pie. It’s good on it’s own with a cup of tea to cut the sweetness. But I like it served with generous mount of softly whipped cream. Call me cream fanatic:P

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Versatile brioche dough — Pissaladiere

Kat’s patisserie is back to live!…I know, after having been away for an entire year! I hope my readers haven’t given up on me and have stopped checking this site out yet…

I’m not quite a pasta or rice person, I mainly live on breads whenever I need my carb, although while the whole world is talking about eating light, I’ve been limiting my carb intake to the very minimum:p Having said that, the rich, buttery, soft and egg-y brioche is something that I just simply can’t resist: be it on it’s own; with little extra indulgence of good French butter; top with a slice of smoked salmon and dollop of fraiche creme to have an instant tartine; or make it a lavish version with Dungeness crab and caviar…either way, it’s a little piece of heaven

The best ever brioche I had was at the French Laundry, the one that they served with foie gras torchon. And the next best thing is probably the brioche loaves available at Wholefoods market…so affordable and so good…although I couldn’t believe that they actually put their loaves in freezer and defrost before putting them on shelves!…what?! But, it proves its ability to stay yummy even after freezing, and so that I’m able to buy a truck load to HK whenever I get back to the States …Why not just buy in HK?…sadly, there’s just not much good options here, and so here comes my new post — homemade brioche goodness.

Using Thomas Keller’s brioche recipe is definitely a no brainer. Yet, I heart all the amazing breads and pastries from Tartine, and their recipe sounds promising as always — although surprisingly,  it’s much more complicated and time consuming comparing to the French Laundry one. So I’m trying both out You know, we like the fuss, complication and chaos in kitchen sometimes…maybe most of the times:p The tartine recipe requires an overnight slow rising process at cool temperature, resulting in a finer texture theoretically; while the French Laundry recipe is simple and straight forward. Surprisingly, they turned out pretty much the same, equally delicious with a fine texture. So it’s your call to decide which one to pick I personally would most likely stick with the fuss free version next time:p

As I’ve made so much dough, naturally, some was used to make one of my favorite savory breads: Pissaladierre — a French classic one with anchovy, olive,  caramelized onion and cherry tomato.

I’ll just include the recipe from Tartine here. Will do a separate post for the French laundry one.

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The recipe: adapted from Tartine

For the brioche dough: (makes 3 3/4 lb dough / 1.7 kg dough)

Preferment:

3/4 cup nonfat milk

2 tsp. active yeast

250g (1 3/4 cup) bread flour

Dough:

2 Tbs. + 1 tsp. active yeast

5 large eggs

1 3/4 cup whole milk

495g (3 1/2 cup bread flour)

55g (1/4 cup) sugar

1 Tbs. salt

235g (1 cup +2 Tbs.) unsalted butter, chilled but pliable

Egg wash:

4 large egg yolks

1/4 cup cream

pinch salt

How to:

To make the preferment:

Warm the milk in a small saucepan, just enough to take the chill off. The milk should not be warm or cold to the touch. Pour the milk in a mixing bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the milk, stir to dissolve the yeast with a wooden spoon. And then add the flour, mix until a smooth batter forms. Cover the bowl with cheesecloth and place in a cool place for one hour, and then in the fridge for at least one hour to cool down. The mixture should doubled in volume and not yet collapsing.

meanwhile, measure all ingredients for the dough. Cut the butter into cubes, and then return the butter, milk and eggs to the fridge to chill.

To make the dough, transfer the preferment and the yeast to the mixing of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix on low speed until the yeast is incorporated into the preferment batter. When the mixture has come together into an even, well-mixed mass, begin to add the eggs one by one. increase the mixer speed to medium or medium high to incorporate the eggs and stopping the mixer and scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl as needed.

once all the eggs are incorporated, reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add 1 cup of the prepared milk. When the milk is fully incorporated, stop the mixer, and add the flour, sugar and salt. Mix at low speed again until all ingredients are well incorporated, about 3 minutes. Now, increase the speed to medium-high a d mix until you see a dough forming and it starts to come away cleanly from the sides of the bowl. About 2-3 minutes.

Turn off the mixer, and let the dough rest for 15 to 20 minutes. While the dough is resting, place the chilled butter cubes into a separate mixer bowl. Fit the mixer with paddle attachment and mix the butter on medium speed until the butter is pliable but not soft and is still chilled.

Refit the mixer with the dough hook again, and start to mix the rested dough again on medium speed. when the dough once again starts to come away cleanly from the sides of the bowl, increase the speed to medium-high. At this point, the dough should look very silky and elastic. With the speed still on medium-high, start to gradually adding small amount of butter, squeezing the butter cubes through your fingers so that they become ribbons as they drop into the bowl. Stop the mixer to clean the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl from time to time. Make sure you don’t add too much butter at a time, and also make sure you don’t mix the butter too long after each addition, or you’ll heat the dough up. When all the butter has been added, allow the mixer to run for another 2 minutes to make sure all butter is fully incorporated. The dough should still come sway nicely from the sides of the bowl at this point.

Now, slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup milk in increments of 1 tablespoon and increase the mixer to high. Mix until the dough is silky and continues to pull away from the sides of the bowl. This should take about 2 minutes.

lightly oil a large baking sheet. Spread the dough evenly on the prepared pan. dust the top light lightly with flour and cover with cheesecloth. If you are making the dough well ahead of time,  put the pan  in freezer for 3 hours, then transfer to the fridge and let it slowly rise overnight; if you are making the dough the same day you want to serve the bread, then put the pan in freezer for 2 hours, then transfer to the fridge for 3-5 hours before shaping the dough.

This Pissaladiere recipe will need to use 285g of the prepared dough.

Finally for the Pissaladiere:

on the lightly floured surface, roll out dough into an even round just enough to fit inside the tart pan. (I used a 9″ fluted tart pan.) Allow the dough to proof for 30 to 45 minutes. The timing depends on how warm your kitchen is. It will rise not quite twice in size.

While the dough is proofing, heat the olive oil in a heavy saute pan over high heat. When the oil is very hot, add the onions and saute , stirring constantly, until onions have reduced and well browned, about 10 minutes. Add the vinegar and water, stir well, and scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add pepper and stir well. Remove from the heat and let it cool to room temperature.

Pit the olives and chop coarsely. Top the dough even;y with the cooled onions, leaving a 1/2″ border uncovered around the sides. Then arrange the anchovy fillets over the onions, and top with the olives and halved cherry tomatoes.

in a small bowl, mix together the egg yolk and cream. lightly brush the uncovered edges of the tart with the yolk mixture.

Bake at 350F, for 25 to 35 minutes, or until it’s golden brown and onions are further caramelized. Let cool on a cooling rack for at least 10 minutes before slicing. Serve warm or at room temperature, sprinkle with a little thyme. It is best the same day it is made.

Oh, and it’s just a perfect light lunch on a summer day with a glass of rose or Riesling

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Little pretty thing

cheesecake-pom-pom

I feel utterly bad about having not given any time maintaining my blog for ages! It’s not that I haven’t been baking or cooking, it’s just that they’ve literally taken up all my time, time for myself all the sudden has become something luxurious…although I do miss taking my time styling my food and writing posts so badly. I truly think that people out there live a super busy life while still being able to write humble, thoughtful and long posts with hearts and soul are truly amazing!! I definitely have to work on that!

It’s not going to be a long post neither here, just a little pretty thing that I would love to share with you.

I’m never a big fan of pops. Yes I admit they are such of eye candies to look at, but usually not so much for the taste buds–loaded with buttercream and cake crumbs made of packaged mix inside, and another loads of sugar as the pretty coat. Of course, there’s always a reason for something got its place in the market–they are pretty, they are perfectly bite size, they are trendy — thus I’m planning my cooking class with them finally–yes, with something not too sweet in the center to counter balance the candy melt  which I’m not gonna mess with.

What would be better than putting something creamy and tangy underneath the vivid candy coat? Lemony cheesecake rolled with Digestive crumbs–simple, yet perfect in this case.

Can’t wait to share the fun with my students soon!!

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Back to old school–fondant wedding cake~

simply elegant little fondant wedding cake

I have to admit I’m not a big fan of fondant–heavily sweet and artificially tasted, I always just peel them off and leave them on the dessert place whenever a wedding is serving a fondant covered cake. But, yes, it’s a big but–there’s just something about this ivory blanket of velvety and lusciousness–it’s just simply irressistably beautiful and elegant when done right. Simple lines, dots, flowers and soft pastel colors just make the perfect wedding cake that will wow every guest in the special day.

Isn’t this miniwedding cake draped with soft white and embellished with flowers just such a little perfect pretty thing.

simply elegant little fondant wedding cakesimply elegant little fondant wedding cakesimply elegant little fondant wedding cakesimply elegant little fondant wedding cake

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French pear and frangipane tart

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I always love pears, whether it’s poached, baked, or just as it is. And this one, is also part of the styling for South China Morning Post, so thanks to Susan for the frangipane recipe, though I’ve adjusted a bit in the amount of sugar to make it little less sweet.

I have some leftover dough from the chocolate truffle cake, thought it would be nice to go with the pear frangipane as opposed to plain sugar dough pastry.

pear-frangipane-tart-combo-800x6002French pear and frangipane tart, caramelized almonds, early grey cream

French pear and frangipane tart with Earl Grey cream and caramelized almonds

Recipe for the pear and frangipane tart:

For the chocolate sable tart shell, use the same recipe as for the chestnut-dark chocolate truffle cake:

http://www.katspatisserie.com/?p=903

For the poached pears:

4-5 ripe but firm pears, peeled, halved and cored neatly with a melonballer (William, Barlett, Bosc are the ones I prefer)

500 ml white wine (I used Gewürztraminer this time)

500 ml filtered water

150g sugar

1 vanilla bean pod, halved

peel from 1 orange

peel from 1 lemon

1 cinnamon stick, broken into couple pieces

Put all ingredients into a heavy bottom deep saucepan, fit the pear halves neatly into the pan, cut out a piece of parchment paper to fit the pan and cover the pears directly. You might want to poke a hole in the center of the parchment paper to let the steam out. And you may also need to place a plate on the parchment to ensure all the pears are submerged.  Brought the mixture to a simmer, simmer for another 20 minutes or until the pears are tender, but not too soft and mushy. They should still hold their shape perfectly. You can prepare this poached pears in advance, and leave them in the poaching liquid, but fishing out the citrus peels and cinnamon, other wise, the infused flavor could be too strong and the cinnamon could dye the pale color of the poached pear. I actually prefer to do this the night before making the tart, as I found leaving the pears over night in the poaching liquid would allow all the flavor and aroma penetrating into the pear flesh more beautifully.

For the frangipane filling:

150g sliced almond

150g softened unsalted butter

60g sugar

30g plain flour

1.5 large egg, or 2 small ones

2 tsp. good vanilla bean extract

couple drops of almond extract

little pinch of fine sea salt

Toasted the almond slices  (try to spread them out in a thin layer for even browning) at 180C for about 5-7 minutes, keep a close eye on them as they burn fast. Cool the toasted almonds, then use a small food processor to grind them into powders, use on and off mode, you don’t want your almonds turning into paste other than almond meal. If you happen not to have a food processor at home, it’s alright to use store bought almond meal, they’ll work as fine, just you’ll miss that fresh toasty almond aroma by doing it from scratch yourself.

Cream the room temperature butter with the sugar, and salt till pale and creamy, add the eggs, whisk till well combined, it might look a bit curdled at this point, but it’ll be in good shape again after adding the dry ingredients. Tip in the almond powder and sifted flour, mix well with the butter mixture, I like to use a rubber spatula to do the mixing at this point. Then, add the vanilla and almond extract, mix again. Use a offset spatula to spread the frangipane into the blind baked tart shell, smooth out the surface. The frangipane should fill only about less than two thirds of the tart shell capacity, you’ll want to leave room for arranging the pear on top, as well as room for the frangipane batter to puff up in the hot oven.

Now, get your poached pear halves out. Carefully wipe them dry using kitchen paper. One pear half at a time, thinly slice it, and fan it out on top of the prangipane, lightly press it down a bit into the batter. Prepare and arrange the other pear halves in the same manner. I like to arrange my pear halves snugly, and trim a nice one and fit in the center. But you can arrange the pears anyway you want, let be rustic or elegant.

Bake the tart at 190C for about 40-45 minutes, or until the prangipane is nicely puffed up and golden brown. Cool the tart on a cooling rack. Meanwhile, you can make a glaze to brush tart to give it a coat with a sheen. You can definitely make a quick glaze by warming up some apricot jam or apple jelly thinned with tiny bit of water, but why not utilizing the poaching liquid when it’s there already and packed with flavor. Simply reduce down the poaching liquid till it’s syrupy, use a pastry brush to give the baked tart a shiny wash. And that, is something beautiful and delicious.

I made some candied whole almonds, and whipped up some vanilla chantilly to serve the pear frangipane slice– gotta love it!

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