Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Roasted Pumpkin Cookies

for the cookies:

130 g butter
40 g vegetable shortening *
1 Tsp orange zest (freshly greater from 2 oranges)
85 g brown sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
140 g roasted butternut squash

310 g flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg powder
pinch of salt

* you could use one part of butter and one part of vegetable shortening, or you could use 170 g butter

Note: Roast your own pumpkin. The canned pumpkin purée is soggy and has lost all the flavours. Roasting the pumpkin on your own will give you control over the stage at which you would like to bake it - just until is soft enough to mash it, or until the sugars caramelize on top. I caramelized the squash, scrape it out from its skin and add it to the mixer bowl, whiteout any further treatment. I kept the caramelized top, although it added slight dark colouring here and there into the baked cookies. 

1. In a bowl, combine the dry ingredients: the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Sorry, no ginger in my cookies - cinnamon is my autumn scream, ginger ... a bit later, around Christmas...

2. With a paddle attachment, cream the butter, shortening and zest. Beat in the sugar. Add the yolk. Combine well. Add vanilla extract and beat until creamy. Add the roasted squash and homogenize well. 

3. Add the dry ingredients and with just few movements, form a dough. 

4. Place the dough in between two wrapping foil sheets (or parchment paper sheets), roll it out thick and place in the fridge.

Because of the fruit, the dough would be a bit harder to handle than the ordinary butter cookies. 


1. Take the dough out of the fridge. Roll it thinly - about 5-6 mm. Working fast, until the dough is cold, cut out cookies in shapes, that speak to you at that precise moment. The cut outs will be slightly sticky, but they will still keep the shape. 

2. Arrange them on a lined with parchment paper (or silicon liner) baking pan. Bake at 190C until golden with brown edges. 

3. Collect the excessive dough, form a ball, roll out, cool, cut cookies and bake. 

Store in an air tight container. 

The cookies are moist inside and nicely crispy on the outside. Because of their small sugar quantity, it is preferably to use butternut squash. The natural sugars of this fruit elevates the taste as much as the sweetness of the cookies. Serve with warm milk with honey, or herbal tea. 

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Thanksgiving Log

Thanksgiving is an extraordinary day. I have discovered the gracefulness of this beautiful holiday while living in Canada. Being grateful is a wonderful feeling. 

The season is so amazingly inspiring - all the colours and warm sun, the bright blue sky and the birds in preparation for leaving, the orange pumpkins, sneaking from below the big green umbrellas of their leaves and the juicy heavy apples and pears,  twisting the brunches of the trees. 

I love autumn. 

This year's Thanksgiving dessert gave me hard time to prepare. I was wondering how to include the pumpkin into a delicate French recipe, how to make nuts present in a celebration of their harvesting, and at the same time to keep the taste and elevate it even more. 

For this Autumn Roll, you will need to prepare the following recipes:

Ribbon Sponge, Joconde Sponge, caramel sauce, Mousseline Cream (Pumpkin Pastry Cream & Meringue type Caramel Buttercream), quater recipe of praline paste.

for the Ribbon Sponge *(as per "Le Cordon Bleu"):

have all the ingredients at room temperature

50 g butter 
50 g confectioners' sugar
50 g egg whites
55 g flour
food colouring
Joconde Sponge

Prepare the coloured paste first as it needs to harden for a while in the refrigerator, once it has been shaped: Beat the butter until creamy, add the sugar, mixing well. Add the whites, while beating. As soon as they are incorporated well, mix in the sifted flour. Colour the paste as desired. I used golden yellow, green and brown colour form Wilton.

Divide the paste in three and colour each part. You will need bigger quantity of green and orange and much less brown paste. 

For the Flower Power Cake I made for my beautiful daughter's birthday last year, I made stencil. For this roll, I piped the design. 

Spoon each coloured paste into a piping bag with round tip. For the green and yellow, I used Wilton round tip No. 3. For the brown - No. 2. 

Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat. Pipe the desired design onto it. Place in the fridge to cool completely. 

* Pipe the unused Ribbon sponge in different shapes for baking tuile cookies. Use a separate baking sheet, lined with silicon. Bake at 210 °C.

for the Joconde Sponge (as per "Le Cordon Bleu"):
(for a sheet pan 28 x 40 cm)

130 g almonds powdered
40 g hazelnuts powdered
75 g confectioners' sugar
25 g flour
120 g eggs

80 g egg whites
10 g sugar

30 g melted butter

In a bowl, mix together the almonds, confectioners' sugar and flour. Add the eggs in small portions, mixing well after each addition. With a whipping attachment, beat the egg whites with the sugar until firm peaks. With a spatula, fold in the flour-egg mixture. Fold in the melted butter.

Take the design out of the fridge. With a palette knife, spread the batter of the Joconde Sponge over in an even thin layer. It is important to keep the design underneath shaped and covered. Do not press the knife as you do not want to ruin the design.

Bake at 200°C for 8-10 min in the middle rack of the oven. If silicon liner is not available. place two sheet pans together - no browning at the bottom of the sponge is allowed as this will give unpleasant look to the cake.

Leave to cool in the pan. Carefully transfer it on a sifted with powdered sugar parchment paper sheet, turning the design upside up.

for the Mousseline Pumpkin Cream:

1 recipe Pumpkin Pastry Cream 
1 recipe Meringue type Caramel Buttercream

Prepare the Pumpkin Pastry Cream:

for the Pastry Cream:

250 ml whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean

3 egg yolks
60 g sugar
25 g corn starch
18 g white flour

120 g butternut squash - rosted *

* Roast your pumpkin - there are many advantages to roast the pumpkin, instead of using ready made, canned purée. It caramelizes perfectly and gives the Mousseline Cream unique flavour.

Scrape the seeds from half vanilla bean into the milk and bring to boil. Meanwhile beat slightly the egg yolks, sugar, flour and starch without over beating. When homogenized, beat in the roasted squash. 

Pour half of the hot milk into the egg mixture, stirring constantly (dissolving the sugar). Pour the yolk mixture back to the pot where the other half of the milk is and place over medium heat. Stir constantly. (I used wooden spoon at first until the mixture thickens a bit, then switched to whisk attachment and destroyed every piece of starch ball that was about to occur). 

Place the pastry cream in a deep dish, cover it with cling foil, (the foil should touch the cream. Sometimes I even wrap it in foil) avoiding crust to be formed. Leave to cool at room temperature. 

Prepare the Meringue Caramel Buttercream:

You will need 1 recipe caramel sauce and 1 recipe Italian type meringue.

for the caramel sauce:

65 g sugar
15 g water
50 ml heavy cream

Combine the sugar and water in a heavy sauce pan. Bring to boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cook the syrup until caramel is formed. If you use a thermometer, it should measure 160-165C. If not, make sure that you do not overcook the caramel - when it turns amber colour, reduce the heat to very low and remove before it darkens. 

Remove from heat and cool for few min.

In a separate pan, bring the cream to boil. Add slowly to the caramel, stirring constantly until caramel dissolves. Set aside and let it cool. 

for the Caramel Buttercream :

130 g butter
25 g caramel sauce *

* you could use the rest of the sauce for garnishing the serving plates

Have the butter at room temperature to soften while working on a meringue.

for the meringue:

65 g egg whites (one and a half whites from extra large eggs)
75 g granulated sugar
30 ml water

Dissolve the sugar into the water in a heavy bottomed pan over heat. Bring to boil. Cook the syrup for 2 min. While the syrup is cooking, beat the whites until soft peaks. Keep the mixer running and add the syrup very slowly until use all of it. Continue beating the egg-sugar mixture until cool to a room temperature and firm peaks are formed.

Cream the butter until light. Beat in the caramel sauce. Add the meringue a little at a time, combining very well before next addition.  The emulsion has to be formed - creamy soft and light in texture. 

Tailoring the Mousseline cream:

Have the Pastry Cream at room temperature and beat half of it into the buttercream. Beat in the other half. The consistency is light and will allow an even distribution onto the cake. If you find it a bit too soft for the rolling, place it in a refrigerator to harden a bit.


Have your baked and cooled sheet of Joconde sponge turned upside down over a kitchen towel - the drawn side down. The rolling is from the shorter side of the sheet. Thinly spread the praline paste all over, leaving 3 cm of the sponge edge uncovered - where the rolling will end.

Distribute the cream, leaving the 3 cm edge uncovered. Start rolling, making sure that the design is well displayed. Stop at the end. Hold the edges of the towel and supporting the roll, transfer it on a plate and refrigerate overnight.

Place on serving plate and decorate, ready for the holiday dinner.

I used the tuile round cookies I piped from the excessive Ribbon sponge and the wonderful roses, which I could still cut from my garden.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Lemon - Pie Cookies

These mini lemon pies are amazing. They are an artistic assembly of lemon wafers, topped with swirls of meringue with lemon curd centres. The combination is incredibly fresh.

The lemon cookies could be made a day ahead. They are filled with lemon aroma and flavour and have soft texture. The recipe is for at least 36 - 40 lemon wafers. The recipes for lemon curd and white meringue are for 12 lemon pies. The rest of the lemon wafers could be used as a great breakfast addition to hot chocolate, garnish to ice creams, bases for other confections, or enjoyed on their own.

for the lemon wafers:
(5.5 - 6 cm large)

250 g butter at room temperature
180 g sugar
12 g freshly grated lemon zest

60 g egg (or one extra large egg)
30 g milk
15 g freshly squeezed lemon juice

370 g flour
1/2 g baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

In a bowl, scale the dry ingredients - the flour, salt and soda. 

In a stainless steal bowl, with a paddle attachment, cream the butter slightly. Add the sugar and the zest and cream just until smooth. Add the egg. Cream to combine, followed by the milk and the lemon juice. Beat after each addition but without over beating - do not beat to light cream. 

Add the dry ingredients, processing at the lowest speed of the mixer just to combine. 

Prepare a piping bag with a plane tip. I used 8 mm round tip. Spoon the batter onto the piping bag and pipe mounds on a lined with silicon or parchment paper baking sheet. Space the mounds about 5-6 cm away from each other. Use an acetate small sheet to flatten each mound, pressing the sheet onto each one. I used an acetate square, cut from a commercial packaging, because it leaves the surface of the cookies nicely even and by pressing down, I ended up with nice uniformed rounds. 

Bake at 190°C until just the edges start to golden. It is good to keep the natural lemon yellow colour of the cookies without making them golden. Transfer on a wire rack to cool completely. 

for the lemon curd:

1 whole egg - extra large
1 egg yolk (from 1 extra large egg)
60 g sugar
50 ml lemon juice - freshly squeezed
65 g butter

In a bowl, beat the egg, egg yolk and sugar until light and pale. Transfer the mixture in a heavy bottomed pan over a bain marie and cook, stirring constantly for about 5 min. After the first 2-3 min, the mixture will start to thicken, so keep stirring to avoid forming lumps. Remove from the heat and add the cubed butter. Stir until it melt, transfer in a clean porcelain cup and cover tightly with warping foil (the foil should touch the surface of the curd) and leave to cool. 

Once cooled, pipe the curd in a piping bag with a round tip.

For the swirls, I decided to make meringue, Italian way. I wanted to keep the gentle white and lemon yellow colours in harmony, without caramelizing the meringue for the finished pies. That is why I cooked the sugar and added it hot to the whites.

for the meringue:

42 g egg white (or egg white from 1 extra large egg)
70 g sugar
20 g water

Bring the water and sugar to boil. While the syrup is cooking, beat the egg whites, until soft peaks are formed. Cook the syrup for 2-3 min until the sugar dissolves. Add slowly to the egg whites, whisking constantly. Continue whisking until the meringue reaches room temperature.

Spoon the meting into a piping bag with a star tip.


Arrange all 12 cookies upside down. Have the piping bags with the lemon curd and with the meringue ready. Pipe swirls of meringue following the edge of the cookies. Leave the centre open. Pipe lemon curd mounds in the centre.

You could play with the design here - piping thinner meringue swirls and having bigger lemon curd centres, or piping rings of lemon curd around the edge of the cookies and filling the centre with small rosettes of meringue. It is up to your imagination and mood at the time.

I, honestly, was thinking of piping lemon curd layer, topping with big mound of meringue, but at the time I got into tailoring the pies, I was happier to design them in a daisy style. I am very satisfied with the result and because the heavy sweetness of meringue does not overpower the whole desert, but just add a gentle touch to the acidity of the lemon curd.

Enjoy them the way you like and have a sweet day!

Monday, 6 October 2014

Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

Yes, lots of chocolate in the recipe. But it is almost enough for chocolate lovers.

I found this rose in the store 2 years ago and fell in love with its name. It was a small plant, just few glossy, green leaves and a couple of tiny branches, on the weakest one of each, a label was hanging, saying - "chocolate blossom". Seriously? What could this be?! I was curios and planted this rose on my backyard, waiting for this precious chocolate blossom.

Right this year, at these cold autumn days, this rose bloomed with a beautiful big chocolate blossom. I love it. But no wonder - I love everything that says "chocolate". It looks more like a dark caramel, but a hint of milk chocolate in the centre of the blossom is very obvious.

This recipe was influenced by the creative and unique in her cupcake's variety Annie from Annie's eats.

for the cupcakes:

120 g unsalted butter at room temperature
160 g sugar

2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

60 ml cold water
30 g cacao

170 g flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt

80 g yogurt

90 g chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a 12-cavity-cupcake pan with paper cups.

In a bowl, combine the dry ingredients: the flour, baking powder, soda and salt.

With the paddle attachment of a self standing mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. 

Add the eggs, beating after each one until well homogenized. Add the vanilla extract. Combine well.

Scale the cacao powder in a tea cup. Add half the water and mix. Add the whole quantity of water and stir well to homogenize. It should look creamy and glossy. Add to the butter and mix well. 

Add half of the dry ingredients, mixing just to combine. Add the yogurt and the other half of the flour mixture. Beat just to incorporate. 

Stir in the chocolate chips.

Distribute the mixture into the lined pan, filling the cavities about three quarters of their volume. 

Bake for about 15-18 min or until well baked in the centre of the middle cupcake. Check with a toothpick. Leave the cakes to cool for about 5-8 min in the pan before arranging them on a wire rack to cool completely. 

for the chocolate cream cheese frosting:

200 ml heavy cream - 35%    
200 g dark chocolate - 75% cacao
120 g unsalted butter at room temperature
170 g cream cheese at room temperature
200 g confectioners' sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Beat the cream until soft peaks are formed. Refrigerate until needed.

Melt the chocolate over a water bath. Set aside to cool slightly.

Beat the butter and the cream cheese together until well combined and light. Add the sugar and beat well. Add the vanilla extract. Combine.

Add the cooled chocolate and beat well. At this point you will end up with thick icing. 

Take the cream out of the fridge. At very low speed, fold in half of it with a paddle attachment. Fold in the other half, right after the first addition is well homogenized. The cream will lighten the frosting. 


If you find the frosting too soft for piping, place it in the fridge for 15 min to harden a bit. This will give you more flexibility on handling it and the piping will be easier and more precise. 

Arrange all 12 cupcakes on a plate. 

Have in mind, that the quantity of frosting is very generous. If you do not want to end up with excessive chocolate cream cheese, pipe big swirls on each cupcake. The frosting itself is light and a great addition to the dense and full of chocolate chips cakes. 

Refrigerate the cupcakes. Before serving, have them tempered for about 15 min at room temperature. 

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Cinnamon Cookies

for the cookies:

250 g butter at room temperature
200 g granulated sugar

1 large egg at room temperature
15 g milk at room temperature

310 g flour
2 g salt
5 g cinnamon
Scale all the ingredients ahead. Leave them to rest at room temperature for awhile. This will ease homogenizing them during the process.

In a bowl, mix the flour, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.

Cream the butter. Add the sugar and cream until light. Add the egg. Mix it well. Add the milk. Homogenize. 

Add the dry ingredients and pulse just until the dough is formed. 

Divide the dough in two batches. Have a sheet of wrapping foil. Place each batch on a foil sheet and roll into a log. Do not try to form the perfect shape now. The dough is too warm and difficult to handle. Wrap the log into the foil and place in the freezer for 20 min.

Take the log out of the freezer and try to form a perfect cylinder. Roll it out in coloured crystal cinnamon sugar. Wrap it tightly and freeze again for 10-15 min.

Cut 5 mm biscuits from each log. Arrange on a lined with parchment paper baking pan. Space the cookies about 4 cm from each other, allowing them to spread.

Bake at 190°C until golden. Turn the pan half way trough baking. Let them rest for 5 min in the pan. Arrange the cookies on a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an air tight container.