Impress your guests: make a Charlotte

January 27, 2017 § Leave a comment

You know how sometimes you want to really impress your guests with a very special, not “only” delicious but also beautiful-looking dessert? If you are willing to put in a little bit of effort, a Pear Charlotte will definitely deliver the wow factor, as well as the “deliciousness”. AND, drum rolls, it must be made in advance, so no last minute stress!!img_3348

This classic French dessert often comes with a “creme bavaroise” filling (it includes eggs and is quite rich) but this recipe from Daniel Boulud (Elle Decor, November 2015) calls for gelatin and makes for a slightly lighter if not completely dietetic filling .Try it and you’ll be smitten! (Note that the author suggests using canned pears or other fruit if you do not have the time or inclination to poach the pears!! Another time-saving tip!!)

You’ll need:

2 cinnamon sticks

2 star anise pods Zest and juice of 1 lemon

½ cup maple syrup

¼ cup honey

1 cup sugar

2 cups water

7 Bartlett pears

1 T unsalted butter Salt

4 sheets gelatin or two ¼-oz. packets

1 package ladyfingers (24 pieces)

1 ½ cups heavy cream

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Line a charlotte mold with plastic wrap so that the bottom and sides are covered.

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In a medium saucepan, bring to a boil the cinnamon sticks, star anise, lemon juice and zest, maple syrup, honey, sugar, and water. img_0001Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the syrup from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Set aside ¼ cup of syrup.

Transfer the remaining syrup to a large shallow baking dish. Peel, quarter, and core four of the pears and slice them thinly (about ¼ inch thick). img_0009Immediately transfer the slices to the baking dish and mix them with the syrup to prevent oxidation. Cover the dish and place in the oven to poach the pear slices for about 15 minutes.

Peel, quarter, and core the remaining three pears and roughly chop into small chunks.img_0002 In a medium saucepan, combine the pear chunks with the butter, a pinch of salt, and the reserved ¼ cup of syrup;
set the saucepan over medium heat, cover, and cook for 15 minutes, or until the pear mashes easily with a spoon. Use a handheld immersion blender to puree until smooth. img_0004

img_0005Bloom the gelatin in a small bowl of cold water img_0003and add it to the pear puree;img_0006 mix well and transfer to a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for about 45 minutes.img_0007

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Remove the poached pears from the oven and let them cool slightly in the syrup. Using a slotted spoon, gently transfer the pears onto a plate lined with paper towels. Quickly dip the ladyfingers in the syrup and set them aside; img_0011img_0012they will slowly absorb the syrup.

In an electric mixer fitted with a whisk, whip the cream to stiff peaks,img_0013

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then, using a spatula, gently fold the pear puree into the whipped cream; img_0017

img_0018do not overmix.

To assemble the pear charlotte, line the walls of the charlotte mold with the syrup-soaked ladyfingers, arranging them vertically side by side. img_0031Pour half of the pear-cream mixture into the charlotte, img_0020then add a double layer of sliced pears. Pour in the remaining pear-cream mixture. Lay four more ladyfingers across the top and trim the four remaining ladyfingers to fill in gaps so that the top (which will be the base of the charlotte once inverted) is covered.img_0032 Place in the refrigerator for at least four hours to set completely. To serve, unmold the charlotte onto a plate and arrange the remaining pear slices on top in a circular pattern.

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img_3351Enjoy!!

Spa Party Cookies

January 12, 2017 § Leave a comment

I wish I had Spa parties when I was a little girl! Getting my nails done and sipping cucumber-water with my friends, I would have felt quite content, but since I did not, I now compensate by baking some Spa cookies when I am asked…So recently, SWEETTABLESCAPES produced this selection of spa-snacks for the lucky birthday girl and her guests!!

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As you can see, this was the luxury treatment;

fluffy slippers, nail polish bottles, lipstick and cucumber slices completed the set!!

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Gluten-Free baking: Chewy Almond-Cocoa Cookies

January 9, 2017 § Leave a comment

 

SWEETTABLESCAPES is admittedly not a gluten-free business but it’s always fun to experiment with new stuff and we wanted to try a few simple recipes to be able to respond to requests of GF baked goods every now and then. This is an easy recipe which yields some delicious “meringue-based” cookies; and with gluten-free comes the Passover Jewish holiday stamp of approval too; so if you celebrate Passover, keep this recipe in your arsenal!!img_0022

When we went hunting for some GF recipes, we found a good source in img_2939

Our first try was the Chewy Almond-Cocoa Cookie recipe:

You’ll need: 

5.4 ounces almond meal flour (about 1 1/2 cups) [keep in mind that almond meal flour is simply blanched almonds that are very finely ground. I usually make my almond meal with a coffee grinder]

2/3 cup sugar, divided

1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa

2 large egg whites

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1/4 tsp almond extract

2 Tbsp slices almonds

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325F

Combine almond flour, 1/3 cup sugar and cocoa in a medium bowl; stir well with a whisk.img_0037

Place egg whites in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until foamy. img_0038Add cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Add 1/3 cup sugar, 1 Tbsp at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. img_0039Fold in almond extract. Sprinkle flour mixture over egg white mixture. Fold in.img_0040
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Spoon mixture into a pastry bag with 1 1/2-inch round tip. Pipe mounds 1 inch apart onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. img_0043

Gently press an almond slice into top of each cookies.( we forgot that step.. 😦

Bake at 325F for 12 to 15 minutes or until edges of cookies are crisp. Coll 10 minutes on pans. Remove and cool on wire racks.

 

 

Mini cookies: our latest creations

January 9, 2017 § Leave a comment

There is no doubt that miniature cookies check all the boxes: cute beyond compare and small enough that you can have a few without feeling the guilt and the pounds piling on!!

SWEETTABLESCAPES makes them on a regular basis for many different events and they’re always a big hit!! Our collection of miniature cookie cutters is constantly growing! So here are some of the latest styles:

Bat Mitzvah cookies for a Soccer fan!

Bat Mitzvah cookies for a Soccer fan!

Another sport aficionado requested miniature balls!

Another sport aficionado requested miniature balls!

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Wedding favors for a couple who met at Penn State

Wedding favors for a couple who met at Penn State

Teachers Thank You

Teachers Thank You

Bridal Shower favors

Bridal Shower favors

Favors for a Little Prince or Knight!!

Favors for a Little Prince or Knight!!

Mother's Day treats!

Mother’s Day treats!

Gender reveal...

Gender reveal…

 

Buttermilk Bundt Cake with Lemon

November 29, 2016 § Leave a comment

When the weather starts cooling, it becomes all the more appealing to retreat to the kitchen, warm up the oven and bake something delicious. If I have extra time, I will go all out and spend the afternoon making some easy-to-freeze cakes, that I know will be ready anytime. Such an afternoon happened recently and one of SWEETTABLESCAPES creation was this massive and massively-yummy Buttermilk Bundt Cake with Lemon  from Food and Wine Magazine.

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You’ll need: 

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup vegetable shortening, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
GLAZE
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter, melted
  • Pinch of fine salt

Directions: 

Preheat the oven to 
325°. Generously butter a 10-inch Bundt pan and dust with flour.img_0010In a medium bowl, whisk the 3 1/2 cups of flour with the salt 
and baking soda.

  1. MAKE THE CAKEIn a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the 1 1/2 sticks of butter with the shortening at medium-high speed until smooth. img_0011img_0012
    Add the granulated sugar and 
beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.img_0013
  2. img_0014At medium speed, beat in the eggs 1 at a time until just incorporated, then beat in the vanilla; img_0015
  3. img_0016scrape down the side of the bowl. Beat in the dry ingredients and buttermilk in 3 alternating batches, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. img_0017
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  5. img_0019At low speed, beat in the lemon juice.Scrape the batter into the prepared 
Bundt pan and use a spatula to smooth 
the surface.img_0020 Bake in the middle of the oven 
for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking, until 
a toothpick inserted in the center of the 
cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool on 
a rack for 30 minutes, then turn it out on 
a platter or cake stand to cool completely.
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  6. MAKE THE GLAZEIn a medium bowl, whisk the confectioners’ sugar with 
the lemon zest, lemon juice, butter and 
salt until smooth. Drizzle the glaze over
the top of the cake, letting it drip down 
the sides. Let stand for 20 minutes 
until the glaze is set. Cut the cake into wedges and serve.

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MAKE AHEAD

The glazed cake can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days or frozen.

Thanksgiving Cookies, 2016

November 22, 2016 § Leave a comment

Time to prepare for the beautiful traditions of Thanksgiving and to reflect on all that is good in our lives. At SWEETTABLESCAPES, the good in our lives is really the pleasure of baking sweet treats that make people happy and become a fun and tasty part of their celebrations…So here are some of our creations for this Thanksgiving season:

These pie-cookies are just too cute in their individual package> Perfect as favors or place-settings!!

These pie-cookies are just too cute in their individual package. Perfect as favors or place-settings!!

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Give your guests a cookie to write on…everyone is thankful for something!!

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Look who came to visit, a couple of pilgrims. Give them to each guest!!

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Pain d’epices: a French classic

November 18, 2016 § Leave a comment

I still remember the Pain d’Epices of my childhood, store-bought, dense, and plain (no nuts or dried fruit in it, which suited me just fine since I really did not care for the extra-sugary, syrupy cherry bits that seemed to be the standard addition in many a “pain d’epices”). Mine was simple and perfectly sliced in its cellophane wrapping. I could grab a piece anytime and I did!! I particularly enjoyed it with a piece of chocolate…

Fast forward a few years(..??) and here I am attempting the real deal…A Pain d’Epices with loads of dried fruit and nuts; and since homemade is still the bomb, it came out fantastically spicy, nutty and altogether delicious. Even got a major husband’s stamp of approval!

This recipe had been sitting in my files ( I think I cut that one out from the New-York Times) for quite some time and with the holidays approaching,  I really wanted to give it a try. Done! And needless to say, this will become a traditional giveaway dessert at SWEETTABLESCAPES. 

img_0021You’ll need:

2 cups nuts, preferably a mix of sliced almonds, slivered almonds, skinned pistachios, skinned hazelnuts, walnut halves and pine nuts

1 cup dried fruit cut in small dice, preferably equal amounts of apricots, figs, prunes and dates

1/4 cup dark raisins

1/4 cup golden raisins

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

finely grated zest of 1 orange

4 tsp baking soda

1 tsp pastis or other anise-flavored liqueur (we used Anisette)

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground cloves (optional)

pinch of salt

1 cup pine honey or other strong flavored honey (we used lavender honey)

3/4 cup sugar

2 TBsp dark rum

2 pieces star anise, tied in cheesecloth

3 cups all-purpose flour

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter four or five aluminum-foil baby loaf pans. Dust insides with flour and tap out excess. Place pans on baking sheet; set aside.
  2. In large mixing bowl, combine nuts, diced fruit, dark raisins, golden raisins, lemon and orange zest. img_0001Mix well. Add baking soda, pastis, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Stir to mix.img_0002
  3. In medium saucepan over medium heat, combine 1 3/4 cups water with honey, sugar, rum and star anise. img_0003Bring to boil, and immediately remove from heat. Remove and discard star anise. Pour liquid into bowl of fruit and nuts, and stir gently.img_0004 img_0005Let mixture rest for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally . Add all-purpose flour, stir well and let rest for 2 or 3 minutes.img_0006img_0007
  4. Divide batter among pans; the pans will be about 3/4 full. img_0008Place baking sheet in oven. Bake until knife inserted in center of cakes comes out with the tiniest bit of moist batter at the tip, 45 to 50 minutes. (Check cakes after 20 minutes of baking; if at any time the cakes appear to be browning too quickly, cover them loosely with tent of aluminum foil.)img_0009
  5. Transfer cakes to a rack, and cool to room temperature. Unmold, and wrap in plastic film. To serve, cut into thin slices. the cakes are best after ripening for 3 days at room temperature. If sealed in airtight wrap, they may be frozen for a month.

NOTE: This cake is an excellent keeper. In fact, it should not really be eaten until 3 days after it’s made; its flavors need time to ripen. In addition, this cake is great toasted for breakfast and superb with savory foods.

 

 

 

 

 

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