Alfajores

20140328_111907This past week my family celebrated Greek Independence Day and the amount of national pride and love for culture set me off to find a cultural piece to post on. You may wonder why I didn’t choose a Greek dish and I admit I did contemplate doing so but then again that would be exposing family heirloom recipes and I thought the better of it out of respect. So I ended up stumbling on a little gem out of Argentina. Like the popularity of the Oreo in America, Alfajores are practically Argentina’s national cookie. They have been a part of Argentinian culture since the 19th century and to this day Argentina remains the world’s largest consumer of Alfajores as they are a common snack for kids and adults alike.

20140330_134354In doing my research I was quick to find the millions of variations to this cookie. Variations span all across the Latin American countries as well as overseas in Spain (although the Spanish version is of little resemblance to this recipe to the point you want to question they are at all related). The most common type of Alfajores start with two soft cookies and are sandwiched with a decadent dollop of dulce de leche (a Latin American style caramel). Just the dulce de leche alone is enough reason why this is probably the chosen common variation. I chose to prepare this version and also a version where the cookie is finished off by rolling in toasted coconut. Other common alternatives include dusting the cookie sandwich with confectioners’ sugar, coating in dark or white chocolate, or going as far as to ditch the dulce de leche for jam or mousse. I personally prefer the dulce de leche and that is why you will find it here.

20140330_134539Like the Oreo has its milk, the Alfajor is often paired with morning coffee or tea but why limit them to mornings when they make a great afternoon snack or dessert after dinner. One bite and you will quickly understand why they are so popular. Don’t be alarmed by the high amount of cornstarch in this recipe. It is necessary for the cookie to have its signature, slightly cakey texture. In fact, the traditional dulce de leche recipe for Alfajores has been on the back of cornstarch boxes in Argentina for years. If you decide to try the Alfajores with coconut, make sure to toast the coconut until it starts to turn golden brown. This brings out its nutty flavor. You can certainly fill the cookies in this recipe with anything you have on hand but if you want the traditional Argentinian style make sure you use dulce de leche. You won’t regret it I swear. You can find dulce de leche in the baking aisle or Ethnic aisle of most supermarkets. This recipe will yield you approximately 1 ½ dozen cookies. The cookies can be stored at room temperature for 3 days. Enjoy 🙂

20140330_134124Alfajores

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup Cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp. Baking Powder
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 14 tbsp. (1 ¾ sticks) Unsalted Butter; softened
  • 1 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 ¼ cups Dulce de Leche
  • 1 cup Sweetened Shredded Coconut; toasted

Formula:

  1. Adjust the oven racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions before pre-heating the oven to 375°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or grease pans with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until just combined. Add the eggs and mix until well incorporated. Add the flour mixture and continue to beat until combined. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate until slightly firm, about 30 minutes.
  3. Roll tablespoon amounts of dough into round balls. Place the dough balls about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake the cookies until the edges begin to turn golden, about 12 minutes. Be sure to rotate sheets halfway through the baking time so they cook evenly. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat the process with the remaining dough.
  4. Spread 1 tablespoon of dulce de leche on the bottom half of each cookie. Top with the remaining cookies to form a sandwich and press down gently to push some of the dulce de leche to the cookie edges. Roll the sides of the cookie in the toasted coconut, pressing gently to adhere. Serve.

SPECIAL THANKS TO:

 

PHOTOGRAPHY & STAGING: PETER MENDOROS

RECIPE ADAPTED FROM ADRIANA MILNER

ALL REMAINING CONTENT © HONEYBEE’S PATISSERIE 2014

St. Louis Gooey Butter Cakes

Happy Hump Day Everyone!!! Boy has it been a rough couple of weeks but have no fear I am still around and today I will be bringing you a regional favorite that you may not be aware of if you have never been to the Midwest. Although I haven’t visited my hometown of Dubuque, Iowa in a while, I still remember some of the regions favorites… Taco pizza from Happy Joe’s, Maid Rite Sandwiches, Chicago Style Coney Dogs, and for dessert the Gooey Butter Cake of St. Louis, Missouri. This quirky dessert is a favorite of St. Louisans  and according to the area bakeries it is an acquired taste of the locals. I gave it a shot and I must say was surprised at how delicious it is. Now there are two different types of Gooey Butter Cake. The first is one with a cake batter/cake mix bottom with the gooey layer up top. This is often found in St. Louis supermarkets, restaurants, and made by the home baker as it is easier than the original. However that type of Gooey Butter Cake is more like a chewy and messy bar cookie rather than a delicious cake. The original formula for Gooey Butter Cake resembles an old-fashioned coffee cake base made up of yeast dough and topped with a gooey custard. The second type of Gooey Butter Cake is the one you see in the photos and is worthy of regional recognition. As popular as the Gooey Butter Cake is it comes as no surprise that there are many claims to its fame in St. Louis. Several bakeries were making it years and years ago but two particular families have their own stories claiming they made the original and all the other bakeries followed suit after it’s popularity peaked. The most accepted origin of the cake is that it occurred by accident in the 1930’s by a German-American St. Louis baker who was attempting to make a regular cake but reversed the proportions of certain ingredients. The bakery owner, John Hoffman, had hired a new baker who certainly messed up the formula and created this concoction. Being that it was during the Great Depression, a little screw up was a big deal and so rather than throw out the large amount of screwed up cake, they decided to sell it. Surprisingly it became a huge hit at the bakery and so then they were forced to try to duplicate it. Once it was duplicated they began selling the Gooey Butter Cake as a staple item of their bakery and other bakeries nearby followed suit, creating St. Louis’ most popular ethnic treat. I have chosen two produce two flavors of Gooey Butter Cake, Butterscotch and Chocolate, although there are several more flavors you could experiment with and try. The classic flavor is vanilla and that formula I will provide below. I will also provide the alterations to the original formula so that you can also produce the Butterscotch and Chocolate varieties seen in the photographs. A few quick notes before I leave you… Be sure to remove the cake from the oven when the perimeter is golden brown and the center jiggles when gently shaken. The topping will continue to set up with residual heat as the cake cools. The secret ingredients in this formula that are not exactly traditional but allow ease for the home baker to recreate the original in a snap are light corn syrup and Instant Pudding mixes. These two ingredients quality are crucial. The corn syrup aids in the gooey topping and the instant pudding adds flavor, sweetness, and structure to the gooey topping that would otherwise be much harder to achieve. I suggest using Karo brand corn syrup and Jell-O brand Instant Pudding for best results.

St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake

Ingredients: (Original Vanilla Version)

Dough:

  • ¼ cup Milk, heated to 110°
  • 1 ½ tsp. Rapid-Rise or Instant Yeast
  • ¼ cup Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • ½ tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • ½ tsp. Salt
  • 1 ½ cups Bread Flour
  • 6 tbsp. Unsalted Butter, softened & cut into pieces

Topping:

  • ½ cup Sugar
  • 4 tbsp. Unsalted Butter, softened
  • 2 oz. Cream Cheese, softened
  • 2 tbsp. Light Corn Syrup
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 1/3 cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 3 tbsp. Instant Vanilla Pudding Mix
  • 2 tbsp. Confectioner’s Sugar (Powdered Sugar)

Formula:

  1. For Dough: Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 200°. When the oven is preheated to 200°, turn it off. Line an 8-in. square baking pan with foil. Grease the foil and a medium sized bowl. 
  2. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix milk and yeast on low speed until the yeast dissolves. Add sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt, and flour and mix until combined. Increase the speed to medium-low and add butter, one piece at a time, until incorporated, then continue mixing for 5 minutes. Transfer batter prepared bowl, cover with plastic, and place in the warmed oven. Let the dough rise until it has doubled in size, about 30 minutes. Spread the dough into the prepared pan. Heat oven to 350°.
  3. For Topping: In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the sugar, butter, and cream cheese on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add corn syrup, egg, and vanilla until combined. Add flour and pudding mix and continue mixing until just incorporated. Portion dollops of topping evenly over batter, then spread into an even layer.
  4. Once oven is fully heated, bake until exterior is golden and center of topping is just beginning to color. The center will still jiggle slightly when you shake the pan, about 25 minutes. Cool in the pan at least 3 hours. Use the foil overhang to lift the cake out of the pan. Dust the cake with some confectioner’s sugar. Serve. If the entire cake is not completely consumed at once the cake can be refrigerated for 2 days. 
 

Alternate Versions:

Chocolate Fudge Gooey Butter Cake

Following the formula above make the following adjustments. For the dough, replace 3 tbsp. flour with an equal amount of Dutch-Processed Cocoa powder. For the topping, substitute 3 tbsp. instant Chocolate Fudge pudding mix for the vanilla pudding mix.

Butterscotch Gooey Butter Cake

Following the formula above make the following adjustments. For the dough, substitute ¼ cup packed light brown sugar for the granulated sugar. For the topping, substitute 3 tbsp. instant Butterscotch pudding mix for the vanilla pudding mix.

Special Thanks To:


Cali Rich

Peter Mendoros – Photography

Jello Brand Pudding © 2012 Kraft Foods

Karo Brand Syrup © 2012 ACH Food Companies, Inc.


All remaining content © Honeybee’s Patisserie 2012


Chocolate Blackout Cake

 

chocolate blackout4As spring approaches here in Florida so does the increase in the number of Spring Break tourists. As I was driving home from work the past few days, I have noticed an abundance of New York State licence plates, so it is only fitting that today’s post focuses on a treat straight from Brooklyn. Chocolate Blackout Cake originated from Ebinger’s Baking Company, which opened its doors in 1898 on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, New York. Arthur Ebinger, the creator of the first death by chocolate cake, named the confection after blackout drills conducted by the Civilian Defense Corps during World War II. As Navy ships were sent out to sea from the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the streets of Brooklyn were “blacked out” to avoid silhouetting the battleships against the backdrop of Brooklyn and Manhattan. This cake is meant to resemble the blackout as it has dark chocolate layers which tower high to resemble the Manhattan skyline.

chocolate blackout5To make the cake layers dark and full of chocolate flavor, there are a few culinary tricks that are simple and totally worth it. Start with cocoa powder, and bloom it with some butter in a pan on the stove. Once bloomed, another culinary secret is added which enhances chocolate flavor… that being coffee. Perhaps the best part of all of this little process is not only am I starting the cake batter on the stove but will also finish it there, making for a quicker process, less dishes to clean later, and no messy transfers between bowls! As for the frosting…err I mean pudding (which is probably my favorite part of this whole cake as I am not a traditional frosting fan) the most important part is to ensure it has a velvety rich chocolate taste but also enough stability to cling to the sides of the cake and adhere the cake crumbs to itself. Using half & half plus milk achieves a satiny quality with a bit of sweetness which helps to prevent an over bitterness which can happen when too much chocolate is on the palate. Once the cake is completely cooled and the pudding chilled and set (be sure you allow enough time or  the cake will be gummy and the pudding will run) you can assemble the pastry equivalent of a New York City skyscraper.

chocolate blackout3After I assembled my cake, I realized that I had some extra crumbs and a generous amount of pudding. Since we are in the age of going green and I didn’t want to see any product go to waste, I decided to utilize my extra pudding and cake crumbs in a simple yet innovative way, perfect for parties or even dessert for a weeknight dinner. I shall call them, Blackout Parfaits. To make them you will need parfait glasses of your choice. I own the tall and thin variety but short and stumpy or even a shot glass would work just fine. To neatly fill the glasses, I filled a piping bag with the remaining chocolate pudding and piped it into the glass. For the topping, I used some of the extra chocolate cake layer crumbs and sprinkled them over the piped pudding. It’s as simple and quick as that!

Chocolate Blackout Cake

Ingredients:

*Chocolate Pudding*

  • 1 ¼ cups Sugar
  • ¼ cup Cornstarch
  • ½ tsp. Salt
  • 2 cups Half & Half
  • 1 cup Milk
  • 6 oz. Unsweetened Chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tsp. Vanilla Extract

*Cake Layers*

  • 8 tbsp. (1 stick) Unsalted Butter
  • 1 ½ cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 tsp. Baking Powder
  • ½ tsp. Baking Soda
  • ¾ cup Cocoa Powder
  • 1 cup Coffee, brewed
  • 1 cup Buttermilk
  • 1 cup Light Brown Sugar
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract

Formula:

  1. For the Pudding: Whisk sugar, cornstarch, salt, half & half, and milk in a saucepan set over medium heat. Add chocolate and whisk constantly until chocolate melts and mixture begins to bubble, about 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in vanilla and transfer pudding to a bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours and up to 1 day. 
  2. For the Cake Layers: Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat to 325°. Grease two 8 in. cake pans. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in cocoa and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Take off the heat and whisk in coffee, buttermilk, and both sugars until fully combined and sugars are dissolved. Whisk in eggs and vanilla, then slowly mix in the flour mixture. 
  3. Divide batter evenly between the prepared pans and bake approximately 30-35 minutes. Cool layers in the pans for 15 minutes, then remove and finish cooling to room temperature on a wire cooling rack for at least 1 hour. To assemble the cake cut each layer in half horizontally. Crumble one cake layer into crumbs and set aside. Place one cake layer on a cardboard round and set on a decorating table. Spread a generous amount of pudding over the first cake layer then top with another cake layer. Repeat with another generous helping of pudding and top with the final cake layer. Spread pudding evenly over the top and sides of the cake. Sprinkle the cake crumbs evenly over the top and sides of the cake and press lightly to adhere the crumbs to the pudding. Serve or store for up to 2 days. 

Special Thanks To:

Peter Mendoros – Photography

& Jeremy Sauer

All content © Honeybee’s Patisserie 2012


Pecan Praline Pie

Around the holidays, those of us in the south can’t resist having a pecan pie on the table along with, of course, the traditional Pumpkin. Pecan pie, although a holiday tradition to most families nowadays, is a rather new addition to the pastry world. The oldest formula for pecan pie dates back about 70 years, and is most likely a result of the Karo Corn Syrup companies marketing strategy. Too bad Goerge Washington and Thomas Jefferson never realized they had another use for all of those pecans grown on their Virginia estates. Traditionally, pecan pie should be presented to the table with a perfectly golden crust and rich, buttery center. Sadly, many people are forced to choose the storebought variety when strapped for time, which is often dry, burned, and overly chewy to the point of resembling a nutty taffy.

 So let’s begin constructing the pie of your families dreams, just in time for Christmas. The first crucial step you must make is to select the proper formula for your pie crust. Most people will select flaky believing it will lend them the rich, flaky crust they love but you will end up with a soggy mess. This is because in a flaky pie dough formula, there is more butter added to create the desired flaky finished product. But flaky pie doughs do not belong on the bottom crust of a pie, only the top. For the bottom, you must select a mealy pie dough. In a mealy pie dough formula, less butter is added so that when the pie bakes, the juices excreted from the filling will be absorbed into the crust. This creates a more flavorful crust and also maintaining its structure. Mealy pie doughs have the ability to absorb extra moisture so they prevent the dreaded soggy bottom crust.  Once you have selected a mealy pie dough formula, lets swap out the granulated sugar in exchange for brown sugar and use all butter instead of shortening and butter. This will lend the praline flavor to the crust.

To ensure a proper filling, begin by cooking it on the stovetop before pouring it into the crust. To prevent a gritty texture or non-cohesive filling, corn syrup is used rather than cream. The addition of eggs create added flavor and a binding agent, ensuring the filling will set up properly in the oven. For proper richness, a non-healthy dose of butter is melted in. Last but certainly not least, a bit of bourbon rounds out the nutty, praline flavors and is a much desired addition after dealing with a long month of holiday stress. I poured in about two tablespoons full but if you really want to taste the bourbon, as much as four tablespoons may be added without altering the filling’s texture.

*Note: The pecans called for in this formula must be chopped but be sure you do not include any of the dust or else it will cloud the filling. The pie should be removed from the oven when the center is set but still a bit jiggly. The residual heat will continue to cook the filling, allowing it to set up firm but not be dried out.

PECAN PRALINE PIE

Ingredients:

  • 1 (9 in.) Pie Crust, baked
  • 8 tbsp. (1 stick) Unsalted Butter, cut into pieces
  • 3/4 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 3 Eggs
  • 3/4 cup Corn Syrup
  • 1 tbsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 2 tbsp. Bourbon
  • 2 cups Whole Pecans, toasted, roughly chopped

Formula:

  1. Adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 275°.  If pie shell is not warm, place in oven to slightly re-heat while preparing filling.
  2. Cook butter, brown sugar, and salt in a saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves and butter is melted. Remove pan from heat and whisk in the eggs, one at a time.
  3. Add corn syrup, vanilla and bourbon. Return pan to heat, and stir until mixture is glossy and warm. Do not overheat. Remove pan immediately from heat if the mixture begins to bubble or steam. Temperature should register 130°. Remove pan from heat and gently stir in pecans.
  4. Pour mixture into the warm pie shell. Bake until the center feels like gelatin when pressed, 45 to 60 minutes. Cool pie completely. Pie is best served at room temperature but can be warmed briefly. Top with bourbon whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

 Special Thanks to:  My boyfriend Peter and Bridget Lancaster

 All content © Honeybee’s Patisserie 2011

Jefferson Davis Pie

Here in the south lies a delicious little known dessert originating from the Civil War era. It’s name you ask… is Jefferson Davis Pie.  This simple brown sugar custard laced with dried fruit and nuts is named after the Confederate leader. Jefferson Davis was not the only civil war era leader to have a pie named after them. Mr. Robert E. Lee inspired a cake filled with lemon curd. Quite possibly a future test formula so stay tuned!

 Now back to Mr. Davis. Before one should concern themselves with the custard it is crucial to establish a perfect basis for the custard to set. This basis being the pie crust. For a bottom crust of any pie, one should always choose a mealy pie dough recipe over flaky. Mealy has less butter and more open to receiving juices excreted during the baking process. Therefore when the pie is finished baking it will absorb the flavors of the above layer without causing the bottom crust to become soggy. Of course if you find yourself in a pinch or are too lazy then the Pillsbury Dough Boy can always come to the rescue and magically unroll your pie crust before you. This can save you an extra tedious step. Once the crust is pressed into the pie plate be sure to chill it while preparing the custard and fruit/nut mixture, regardless if you’re using a homemade mealy pie dough or the variety constructed by Pillsbury and his processed cousins.

Although I thoroughly enjoy the fruit/nut portion of the pie, I don’t feel it should be suspended in the custard as many formulas require. I desire a smooth, sliceable custard with the perfect flavor combination of sweetness and spice without any crunchy or chewy distractions hanging about. To simply solve the problem, process the fruit and nuts together until finely ground and press the mixture into the chilled pie dough. This creates a beautiful layer of fruit and nuts when sliced and continues to compliment the flavors of the custard poured above it without being a noticeable distraction. Having resolved the problems with soggy crust and distracting fruit and nuts the next step lies with the finicky custard.

In case you didn’t know, custard and I have never been the greatest of friends. However I’m trying to get to know it a little better with each baking experiment. The biggest issue with me and custards is texture. Baking the pie longer at a lower temperature allows the custard to set up to the proper firmness and the crust remains golden. If cooked at a higher temperature, the outer edges of the custard would burn along with the pie crust before the center ever set. Besides altering oven temperature and cooking time, heavy cream needed to replace milk in order for that slice to come out perfectly smooth. The cream thickens the texture and feels silkier on the palate. It also contributes a richer flavor. Which brings me to the next topic. How to achieve the balanced flavors of sweet and spice. The secret for this custard is to hold back on the sweet. Less brown sugar allows the subtle cues from the spices to shine through.

Once the pie has baked and cooled completely there is one final addition to enhance the flavor to mouth watering level. The addition of a homemade whipped cream. This is where I stress not to cheap out and dollop the pie with Cool Whip or spray a rosette of Redi-Whip on top!!! Why spend so much time creating this elaborate flavorful pie just to disgrace it with a bland processed variety of whipped cream when it is so simple to make from scratch. Honestly it takes no more than three minutes to whip up with a mixer. At times I have been known to whip by hand and still come out under five minutes. I will provide a quick and easy recipe for whipped cream below, however this pie also tastes great with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. If you do choose to whip your own cream, make sure to keep the heavy cream as cold as possible to shorten the whipping time. You may even place your whip attachment and mixing bowl in the refrigerator to speed up the process even further.

Jefferson Davis Pie

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz. Raisins
  • 4 oz. Chopped Dates
  • 2.25 oz. Chopped Pecans, toasted
  • 1 (9 in.) pie shell, chilled
  • 3 tbsp. Pastry Flour
  • 1 tsp. ground Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground Allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 1 cup Light Brown Sugar, packed
  • 4 oz. Unsalted Butter, softened (1 stick)
  • 2.75 oz. Egg Yolk (about 5 large eggs)
  • 10.5 oz. Heavy Cream

Formula:

  1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat to 325°. Pulse raisins, dates, and pecans in a food processor until finely ground. Place mixture into chilled pie shell and press into an even layer.
  2. Combine flour, cinnamon, allspice, and salt in a small bowl. With mixer on medium-low speed, cream sugar and butter together. Add in yolks, one at a time, mixing until incorporated. Add flour mixture and cream. Mix until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  3. Pour custard filling over the fruit and nut mixture in the chilled pie crust. Bake until the surface of the custard appears dark brown and the center jiggles slightly, approximately 55 to 65 minutes.
  4. Cool completely on a wire rack, about 4 hours. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Top with whipped cream.

Whipped Cream

With mixer on medium speed, beat 1 cup heavy cream, 1 1/2 tbsp. light brown sugar, and 1 tsp. vanilla until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes. Whipped cream can be refrigerated for 4 hours. To decorate, fill a pastry bag fitted with a star tip. Pipe reverse shells around the outer edge and rosettes in the center. Dust with ground cinnamon.

References: Special thanks to my boyfriend Peter for his photography and Cali Rich.

All content © Honeybee’s Patisserie 2011