Posted on Leave a comment

Cannoli Filling and Pastry Cream

Pastry cream is not something I’ve had on my to-bake list, but finding the right recipe for cannoli filling has been. I grew up having cannoli from Long Island, so the bar has always been set pretty high. Last year, I took a stab at making a cannoli filling using a recipe for cannoli dip. As you may recall, it was more of a learning experience than a dining experience.

THLZ5458
Failed cannoli dip filling and failed ganache

For my second attempt at a cannoli filling, I tried a recipe by Ginger Barragan of Moonlight Bakes Bakery. Since her recipe utilizes pastry cream, I ended up adding it to my to-bake list. King Arthur Flour is a great source for recipes, so I decided to give their pastry cream a spin.

Having watched shows like Chopped and the Great British Bake Off, making pastry cream had become a bit intimidating. It seemed too easy to ruin the cream and end up with inedible scrambled eggs. The one piece I kept forgetting about was that they were working against a clock. It is easy to see how one slip up can ruin the whole batch, but overall the process was simpler than expected.

Since these experiments were for the filling and the cream, I decided to bake and torte a single devil’s food cake as a vehicle for eating the results instead of going whole hog with fresh pastry. Those challenges are for a later time.

While the cannoli filling isn’t where I want it to be, it is very tasty and a great place to start while honing in on the right ingredients and proportions. I highly recommend giving both of these recipes a go.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Pastry Cream via King Arthur Flour

3 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 Tbsp all purpose flour
4 large egg yolks*
4 Tbsp (1/4 cup) butter
1 cup heavy cream (optional)**

*if you’re looking for something to use the egg whites for, try Italian meringue buttercream (IMBC).

Before starting, set up a bowl with a strainer in an ice bath (place the bowl into a larger bowl, add water and several ice cubes between the two bowls, keeping the inner one dry).

In a medium saucepan, stir together 2 1/2 cups of milk and all of the sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Meanwhile, whisk the cornstarch, flour, and egg yolks with the remaining 1/2 cup of milk.

Whisk some of the hot milk mixture with the yolks to temper them. This keeps the yolks from turning into scrambled eggs when you add the simmering milk.

Pour the egg/milk mixture back into the remaining simmering milk. Doing this through a strainer will prevent lumps later. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, with a whisk, until mixture thickens. Once the cream comes to a full boil, stop cooking immediately or it can curdle and separate.

Remove from the heat and strain through a fine strainer into the bowl set in an ice bath. Stir in the butter and vanilla extract (I sliced the butter so it melted faster and mixed more easily). ***If you would like to flavor the pastry cream, do so here*** (See King Arthur link for flavoring suggestions)

Cover the cream with a piece of plastic wrap, making sure the wrap touches the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cool.

Will keep covered in the fridge for up to five days before it begins to weep.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Cannoli Filling via Ginger Barragan

3/4 cup pastry cream
3/4 cup ricotta cheese (depending on brand, your cheese may need to be strained through cheesecloth overnight. A dry ricotta like Kraft Polly-O (my favorite!) can be used immediately.)
2 Tbsp powdered sugar
1 Tbsp mini chocolate chips (I used more than 1 Tbsp. add to desired density of chips)

Stir pastry cream, ricotta, and powdered sugar until well-combined. Mix in chocolate chips. Chill for 1 hour before filling shells or using in cake.

CGNL6900
Cannoli filling in a torted 9″ round of devil’s food cake.
Posted on Leave a comment

Surprise Inside Cake – Pinky the Ghost

A surprise inside cake looks simple enough. It’s a cake of any flavor with a design or different color cake inside of it. One complaint I’ve seen pop up in a lot of conversation about surprise inside cakes is that the design typically ends up dry since it’s baked twice. Having baked one now, I can see how easily that can happy but I also see room for tweaks to prevent that from happening.

For this experiment, I kept the cake simple so that I could focus on trying my hand at the technique. To figure out my approach, I checked out cakes by i am baker and My Cupcake Addiction. I love the colors in My Cupcake Addiction’s love heart cake and may try that as a rainbow surprise in a future surprise inside cake. For my first try, I opted to use a ghost cookie cutter to make Pinky, one of the Pac-Man ghosts.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Surprise Inside Cake

1 box of white cake mix
1 box of devil’s food cake mix
coloring gel

Prepare one box of white cake mix either by using the instructions on the box or by the modified box method substituting melted butter for oil and milk for water. Add desired color (in this case, I added red with a dab of black to get a muted pink color). Line a cookie sheet or sheet pan with parchment paper and pour batter onto pan. Bake at 350F for 23 mins (or as described on the box).

Place a piece of parchment paper on a cutting board large enough to place the cake on. When the cake comes out of the oven, place the paper and cutting board on top of the cake and flip it so that the cake sits on the board. Lift the pan and peel off the parchment paper that is now on top. Pop the cake on the board into the freezer for 10-30 mins to firm up. This will help prevent the cake from crumbling as much when you use the cutter. Select a cookie cutter for your design and make sure it’s small enough to sit in the cake pan you’re using for the final cake. My ghost cutter ended up being slightly taller than what I needed it to be. Remove the sheet cake from the freezer. Flip the cake over again and remove the parchment paper. Trim the top of the cake with a knife to remove the browned part of the cake and reveal the brighter colors underneath. Use the cutter to cutout shapes from the sheet cake. Cut the shapes close to each other to maximize the number of cutouts. Any extra make tasty snacks.

Arrange the cutouts on the same cutting board and pop the board back in the freezer for at least 30 mins (I did 30 but will let them freeze longer next time to better prevent the moist batter of the second cake from soaking into the cutouts).

Prepare the second box mix as above (either via the box or modified). Using a rubber spatula, place some of the batter on the bottom of a greased and floured bundt cake pan and spread it out to cover the bottom of the pan. My Cupcake Addiction suggests a half inch of batter. Bake this layer of batter at 350F for 7 mins.

Take the pan out of the oven and immediately spread a layer of raw batter on top of the baked layer in the pan. The new batter will thin out quickly since it’s going on top of hot cake. These layers of cake and batter will help to hold the cutouts in place. Take the cutouts out of the freezer and start placing them in the pan. The top of the cutout should be in the bottom of the pan (remember, the cake is upside-down in the pan). The cutouts can be arranged close to each other or with lots of space in between depending on how your want your slices to look. A more spaced out arrangement will result in not knowing whether you’ll get an all devil’s food slice or a slice with a surprise design when the cake is served. If you do a more crowded arrangement, leave some space for batter in between. Don’t press them together too tightly.

Place the rest of the batter into a large piping bag. Cut a wide tip at the bottom. Using the bag helps to get the batter between the cutouts and between the cutouts and the edges of the pan. Pipe the batter into all the sections around the cutouts. After filling the sides and in between, pipe the batter on the top of the cutouts to cover them. Since my ghost cutouts were a bit too tall, my batter did not completely cover them. I used a rubber spatula to try to coat exposed areas of cutouts with batter to encourage the cake to cover them all. When done, tap the pan on the counter a few times to get the batter to fill any gaps. Bake at 350F for 33-35 mins (or as long as directed on the box). Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 mins before flipping it over. The cake should release easily. When ready to serve, cut slices and enjoy the surprise image inside.

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Survival by Chocolate: A Dementor Salve

A quick recap from the last post: I was recently asked if I would donate some goodies to a fund raising event for a local chapter of The Harry Potter AllianceCavendish Brewing Company was hosting a Yule Ball and was interested in treats for their room of requirement as well as pieces for the auction. I couldn’t resist supporting a good cause and coming up with themed bakes!

The second recipe to share from this experience is for my Survival by Chocolate: A Dementor Salve cake. This is pretty simple to put together and tastes amazing! This was an auction item for the night.

Start with a chocolate cake. I made a devil’s food cake but dark chocolate would work very well, too. I baked this one into two 9” rounds.

Then, make a Nutella buttercream. My Baking Addiction’s recipe utilizes a lot of powdered sugar and produces enough buttercream to top a large batch of cupcakes or very generously frost a 9” cake. I still had enough leftover buttercream to mix it with my cake scraps to make three large parfaits! Check out the recipe and notes on the site: https://www.mybakingaddiction.com/nutella-cupcakes/

To really help bring out the flavor of the Nutella, be sure to generously add baked and chopped hazelnuts and top with a chocolate ganache. For the ganache on this cake, I used a 1:1 ratio of heavy cream to chocolate.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Survival by Chocolate: A Dementor Salve

Bake a devil’s food cake in two 9” round pans. Once the cakes have cooled completely, trim the tops so that they are flat. Save cake scraps for later. Add a generous amount of buttercream to the top of the first round. Make sure the buttercream layer is level. Sprinkle some chopped hazelnuts on top. Place the second round on top of the buttercream and nut layer. Add buttercream to the top of the new layer. Frost the sides of both cake layers. Work frosting until the top and sides are smooth. Save extra buttercream for later. Pour the chocolate ganache over the entire cake. Decorate with more chopped hazelnuts.

Chocolate Hazelnut Buttercream:
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 13-oz jar of Nutella or other chocolate hazelnut spread
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1.5 lbs confectioner’s sugar, sifted
6-8 Tbsp heavy cream or milk

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and Nutella until well combined, thick, and fluffy (about 5 mins). Slowly add the confectioner’s sugar and continue mixing until well-blended.

Add vanilla and 3 Tbsp of heavy cream. Blend on low speed until moistened. Add an additional 3-5 Tbsp of heavy cream (I used 5) until you reach the desired consistency. Beat at high speed until frosting is smooth and fluffy (about 3 mins).

Chocolate ganache:
6 oz milk chocolate baking chocolate, broken or chopped into pieces
6 oz heavy cream

Heat heavy cream on the stove or in the microwave. For the microwave, heat for 45 seconds to 1 minute. Cream should be steaming but not boiling. Keep a close eye on it.

Pour heated cream over the chocolate pieces. Let sit for 2-3 minutes to melt the chocolate. Stir using a whisk until the chocolate and cream are well-blended into a rich chocolate sauce. Pour ganache over cake (cake should be sitting on a cooling rack that is over a cookie sheet covered with plastic, parchment, or wax paper to catch the drippings).

Using the leftovers:
Place the scraps left from leveling the cake rounds into a bowl. Add all of the extra buttercream to the scraps. Stir until combined. Spoon mixture into cups, layering with hazelnuts. Top with whipped cream or serve over vanilla ice cream. Serve as parfaits.