Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Guest Blogger: Shandy from Pastry Heaven

I'm Shandy at Pastry Heaven and I get the pleasure of being a guest on the Tale of Three Bakers, how fun!  Luisa rocks with all of her delicious dishes for catering, friends, and her beau.  Some of my favorite recipes have come from Luisa's repertoire of beautifully constructed and plated dishes.  My selection for posting here did not take me long to choose and takes even less time to complete each step; two components put together create:  A Lemon Torte.

Light, tender ladyfingers, billowy bright lemon mouse, and a decadent meringue pull together, creating a memorable chilly dessert for a beautiful spring day.

Pull a ladyfinger out of the best packaging, straight from Italy, and you will still feel the light and airy, yet still crisp and crumbly texture of a tasty cookie.  Make your own ladyfingers from scratch and you will be treated to a moist, tender, light and utterly decadent cookie; none like any you will be able to taste from a packaged container.  There will be no crisp crack as you snap the cookie in half.  In fact, there will be no snapping, period. 

The steps are easy but well laid out.  You will be buzzing along and finished before you know it.

We start with Rose Beranbaum's recipe for Ladyfingers from her cookbook Heavenly Cakes.


6 large eggs, separated and at room temperature
¾ cup superfine sugar, divided
1 Tablespoon of warm water
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup + 1 Tablespoon of Wondra flour (many use this for thickening gravy); you can use all-purpose flour but the batter will not be as stiff
¾ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup of powdered sugar

Equipment:  You will need to baking sheets with parchment paper and outlined with piping guidelines (parallel lines drawn 3 inches apart and an 8- to 9-inch circle).  You will also need a Large pastry bag fitted with a ¾-inch pastry tube.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and set two oven racks in the upper and lower third of the oven.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk beater beat the yolks and ½ cup of the sugar on high speed for 5 minutes, or until very thick and fluffy.  Lower the speed and beat in the water and vanilla.  Raise the speed to high and beat for 30 seconds.  Take bowl off of mixer and sift the flour over the yolk mixture without mixing it in and set it aside.

In another mixer bowl, beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy.  With the mixer off, add the cream of tartar.  Raise the speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form when the beater is raised.  Gradually beat in the remaining ¼ cup of the sugar, beating until soft peaks form.

Add 1/3 of the meringue to the yolk mixture and, with a large silicone spatula, fold until all the flour is incorporated.  Gently fold in the remaining meringue.


Working quickly so the batter does not lose volume, scoop 4 cups into the pastry bag and pipe an 8-inch disk for the base.  Hold the pastry bag in a vertical up-and-down position with the tube at least 1 ½ inches above the prepared pan.  To achieve full height and a rounded shape, allow the batter to fall from the tube without pressing against the pan. 
The weight of the batter will cause them to fall exactly in place.

Scoop the remaining batter into the pastry bag and pipe 3 by 1 ¼ to 1 ½-inch side-by-side fingers.  Sift the powdered sugar evenly over the fingers.  After a few seconds, the batter will absorb some of the sugar.  For a pearled effect, add a second coat.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until light golden brown and springy to the touch.  Remove the sheets to wire racks and cool slightly.  Use a long narrow spatula to remove the ladyfingers from the sheets.  Ladyfingers will keep wrapped airtight for 1 day at room temperature or for 1 month frozen.

Lemon Torte

Lady fingers (the 8-inch round plus 20 – 24 ladyfingers)
1 teaspoon of lemon zest
5 large eggs, separated and at room temperature
1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
¾ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups of heavy cream
½ t. cream of tartar
¼ cup powdered sugar

Equipment:  You will need (1) 9-inch by 2 ½ to 3-inch spring form pan, coated lightly with nonstick cooking spray.  (I had a 10-inch pan so my charlotte has less height.)

Set your 8-inch ladyfinger base in bottom of pan.  For the inside walls, arrange ladyfingers in a ring in the pan so that the cut bottom edges are down and the attractive crust sides are against the pan.  Cover the pan with plastic wrap and place it in the freezer.

Mix the lemon, eggs, and sugar.  Have ready a fine-mesh strainer suspended over a large bowl.

In the top of a double boiler over simmering water, whisk together the 5 yolks, 2 of the egg whites (refrigerate the remaining for the meringue), the sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice.  Cook, stirring with a whisk, for about 15 to 20 minutes or until a thermometer registers 180 degrees F.

Immediately scrape the mixture into the strainer.  Press all of the through the back of a silicone spatula.  Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.

Put heavy cream in a bowl of a stand mixer and refrigerate with whisk beater for at least 15 minutes.

Whip the cream, starting on low speed; gradually raise the speed to medium-high, just until thickened and it mounds softly when dropped from a spoon.  Using a large spatula, stir about 1 cup of the whipped cream into the lemon filling.  Scrape the remaining whipped cream and gently fold it into the mixture until uniform in color.

Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan but allow the ladyfingers to extend about ½-inch above the filling.  Smooth the surface, cover tightly, and freeze for a minimum of 5 hours or up to 5 days.

Position an oven rack about 3-inches below the broiler.  Preheat for about 10 minutes.

In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk beater, beat the remaining 3 egg whites on medium speed until foamy.  With the mixer off, add the cream of tartar.  Raise the speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form when the beater is raised.  Sprinkle the powdered sugar evenly over the surface and continue beating until stiff peaks form when the beater is raised slowly.  Using a silicone spatula, scrape the meringue on top of the lemon filling.  Spread meringue up to the surrounding ladyfingers to keep it from shrinking.  Then make swirls and peaks in the meringue.

Place the torte on a baking sheet, set it under the broiler, and watching it carefully, allow the meringue to turn golden brown.  It will take under 1 minute.  Remove the torte from the broiler and immediately carefully cover and return torte to the freezer.  Freeze for a minimum of 1 hour or up to 3 weeks.  The ideal temperature to serve the torte is at about 30 to 32 degrees.  The filling is most delicious when cold but creamy.  Enjoy!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Easy Confetti Banners + Birthday Kit

My sister's birthday was last week and I wanted to do something special for her being that she's on the West Coast and I'm in the Midwest.  We grew up especially close so it's always a bummer to be so far apart for birthdays, holidays, and other celebrations.  I thought about what she would like: a vintage, convertible Ford Mustang, ticket to Hawaii, or Jack Johnson popped into my head, but I wanted something a little more thoughtful and fun.  (Okay, all those are thoughtful and fun.  I just need something in my price range).  I had seen some adorable birthday-in-a-box kits and thought I'd try my hand at one.

It was fun coming up with ideas.  And I loved the way the banners turned out...They're playful and so colorful.  Perfect for birthdays and for another festive holiday that's coming up (Cinco de Mayo).  My daughter requested one for her room as well.

Here's the miniature confetti cake banner.  

Here are the supplies you'll need to make the banners:

various colored and/or patterned paper
hole punchers in various sizes
clear thread
sewing machine

I felt like I was punching out circles for hours (really I wasn't, it just felt like it).  I learned to plan ahead next time and punch in increments and do something else like watch a movie. Or better yet, next time I'll have my kids help me because they always think this kind of thing is fun... 

Next, set your machine to do a baste stitch and sew your circles together.  Working with the clear thread is a little tricky; it's a little tempermental and I had to slow down and be patient, but it was worth it. 

Leave some string on the first and last circles of the banner for ties; for the cake banner, you'll want to tie the strings to the skewers.  I tied some ribbon to the tops of the skewers to add a little more flair.

I packaged up the confetti banner and will do the same for the cake banner.  Then I tossed in some candles, balloons, napkins, and confetti because what's a party without confetti?  I had great intentions of assembling some cute cupcakes in jars, but California's weather has been crazy lately and I didn't want to send them that far only to have them spoil.  So in lieu of those I repackaged some organic cake mix and added sprinkles. 

We'll also include a handmade card of the thirty-something (ahem, twenty-nine, I mean) reasons why we love my sister.  Add everything else into a cute little box, and voila!  Birthday in a box for a very special person.

Posted by Dawn

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pineapple-Mango Upside-Down Cake

I had three super ripe mangos and half a super ripe pineapple. I love pineapple upside down cake so why not add mango to the party? Here is a recipe I adapted from the "Martha Stewart Baking Handbook."

Pineapple-Mango Upside-Down Cake

Pan Schmear:
1/4 stick unsalted butter (4 tablespoons), room temperature
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar

1 medium ripe pineapple, peeled, cored and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
3 medium ripe mangos, peeled

For cake:
1 stick unsalted butter (8 tablespoons)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large organic eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup light sour cream (or plain yogurt)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch round cake pan, line it with parchment paper, and butter parchment. Place pineapple in a fine sieve set over a bowl to drain. Cut the mango lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Add to the pineapple in the sieve.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat 4 tablespoons butter with the brown sugar until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a small offset spatula, evenly spread butter mixture in the bottom of the prepared pan; set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder; set aside. Place pineapple and mango slices in alternating slices around the pan, covering the bottom as much as you can.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the remaining butter with granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition; scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla. With the mixer on lowest speed, add flour mixture in two parts, alternating with sour cream and beginning and ending with flour.

Using the offset spatula, spread batter evenly over fruit.

Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until cake is golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool 30 minutes. Invert onto a cake plate; peel off the parchment paper. Serve cake slightly warm or at room temperature.

Posted by Luisa


Blueberry Boy Bait

The weather outside right now is pretty bleak and the rain is an intermittent heavy shower.  It is days like this that makes me want to leave the office, go home and put on my comfy sweats and bake a simple dessert with my little girl.

I made this dessert a couple of months ago when the weather was also very gloomy and I had a stockpile of frozen blueberries that I needed to use.  I wanted to do something I had never made before, but I wanted it to be very easy and comforting.  I searched the web and happened upon this recipe from Smitten Kitchen who adapted it from Cook's Country (aka: American's Test Kitchen). 

The folks at America’s Test Kitchen re-created the version they found in The Pillsbury's Bake Off Dessert Cookbook, circa 1954.  The recipe was created by a 15-year-old girl who won second prize in the junior division with a moist and tender blueberry cake that was named after the effect it had on teenage boys--one bite and they were hooked.  The original version used shortening and all granulated sugar.  ATK decided to replace the shortening with butter and light brown sugar for some of the granulated. 

The adjustments produced a buttery cake with a hint of warmness from the brown sugar.  I felt like I was transported back to my Grandmother’s house in Thornton, CA.  She lived in a small house near the delta with a country like kitchen.  I had fond memories of playing in the yard surrounded by her rose bushes, and feeling like I was taken back in time when most of the area was farm-land.  Ah, the good ‘ole days.

This cake can be used with either fresh or frozen blueberries.  ATK recommends that if you using frozen berries, that you do not defrost the berries before adding to the batter.  Juices from the berries will change the color of your batter.  I made two additions to this recipe: 1) I added more blueberries to the batter and 2) decided to dust the blueberries for the topping in one tbsp of flour to prevent them from sinking to the bottom as the cake cooks.


 Blueberry Boy Bait Cake (via Smitten Kitchen)

Serves 12...or two hungry adults and one growing 4 year-old:-)

2 cups plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour (separated)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup whole milk (Smitten Kitchen used buttermilk and said it worked just great)
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (original recipe used only 1/2 cup)

1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (do not defrost)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tbsp flour
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 13 by 9-inch baking pan and cover the bottom with parchment paper.

For the cake....Whisk two cups flour, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl. With electric mixer, beat butter and sugars on medium-high speed until fluffy, about two minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated - scrape the bowl and continue. Reduce speed to medium and beat in one-third of flour mixture until incorporated; beat in half of milk. Beat in half of remaining flour mixture, then remaining milk, and finally remaining flour mixture. Toss blueberries with remaining one teaspoon flour. Using rubber spatula, gently fold in blueberries. Spread batter into prepared pan.

Creaming/Dry added/Coating the blueberries

Topping...Gently toss the blueberries in tbsp flour.  Scatter the blueberries over top of batter. Stir sugar and cinnamon together in small bowl and sprinkle over batter.

Getting ready for the oven!

Bake until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan for 20 to 30 minutes.  Using a offset spatula or knife, loosen the cake from the edges of the pan, then turn out on the underside of baking sheet, remove the parchment paper, and then flip onto serving platter so that the top is now facing up. Serve warm or at room temperature. Cake can be stored in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.

The bait cooling.

Posted by Lori.