Ben the Baker

Just a guy trying to get his kids to eat

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Archive for August, 2009

Passion Fruit

Posted by osakaben41 on August 30, 2009

Passion Fruit

These were a bear to find, but after a few months of scouring the Boston area, I ended up with 4 not-quite ripe Passion Fruits.  They were fairly expensive, and had to sit out for almost a week to ripen, so I felt compelled to treat them with a certain amount of respect.  I could play with bananas or apples all day long, and not think twice about throwing away failed experiments, but these were precious.

Looking around online I came across a number of recipes for Passion Fruit sauce, or simply using the seeds as a garnish.  They’re also commonly mixed into cocktails, and apparently used to complement other (presumably cheaper) fruits.  What we needed here though was something that just let the passion fruit stand on it’s own, an extended guitar solo if you will.  For a minute I thought about just doing a quick sorbet, but that just seemed too simple.
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Posted in Cookies, Fruit, Ice Cream, Tropical Fruit, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Dobos Torte, August DB Challenge

Posted by osakaben41 on August 27, 2009


I’ve been waiting awhile to be able to post this, but the rules are the rules, and they are clear: no revealing the monthly challenge until the 27th.  With that said, The August 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers’ cookbook Kaffeehaus:  Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

The challenge here was to get thin, thin, thin layers of cake consistent enough that the final stack doesn’t lean too much.  This proved more challenging that I expected, with a number of air bubbles making the sponge resemble Swiss cheese.  I tried baking with parchment paper on top of each layer of batter, silpat on top, and uncovered, but just was not able to get layers that didn’t suffer from air pockets.  I may have whipped the egg whites too much, or perhaps the batter needed to rest for a few minutes before going in the oven, but it’s a problem I need to come back to later to solve.  (The earlier Lemon Layer Birthday cake was actually a test drive for this process)

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Posted in Cake, Chocolate, DB Challenge, Recipes | 10 Comments »

Fresh Figs

Posted by osakaben41 on August 27, 2009


If you’re anything like me, you only experience with figs is in their Newton form.  Honestly, despite some amazing photography out there, I was a babe in the woods.  Do you peel them?  Is there a bitter pith like an orange?  And what do they really taste like?

This comes up as I found myself at our local exotic fruit mecca searching for inspiration.  It’s a dangerous thing to go shopping like that without a plan, particularly for items with a limited shelf life.  What passes for self restraint these days means I was able to leave without some very cool new toys.  That said, I still had a few pints of Black Mission Figs to go with my prized passion fruit.

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Posted in Cake, Fruit, Ice Cream | 2 Comments »

Danish Fun

Posted by osakaben41 on August 23, 2009


It’s a wonderful thing to be trusted, whether or not it’s warranted.  This Sunday we were invited to a Brunch party and since I’ve been pitching myself as a ‘Baker’, our kind and trusting hosts asked me to make something.  More than that though, I was given a blank check to bake whatever I wanted, no questions asked, which is the kind of freedom that just demands to be exploited.  So after setting some lofty expectations for something new and bold the only thing left was to get down and funky.


That said, to keep things ‘brunchy’ and partly in honor of Julia Child’s birthday (August 15th, belated perhaps, but she’ll never know), I decided to go with a series of small Danishes using her Baking with Julia Danish dough recipe.  I had previously done a large Danish Braid using this dough, and was very happy with the results, and under normal circumstances it would have been completely appropriate for this setting.  But I’d already done one, so what fun would that be?  And considering the free hand to be creative, the situation called for multiple approaches instead of a single set piece.

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Posted in dough, Fruit, Pastry | Leave a Comment »

Oranges with Rosemary Sabayon

Posted by osakaben41 on August 22, 2009


Just a quickie this time. I found myself with a leftover Orange right around the same time I came across yet another inspirational Pastry blog.   Something that I’ve come across time and again that I’ve yet to get a chance to try is a simple Sabayon sauce. Charlie Trotter does a number of variations of a standard Crème Anglaise (Tarragon, Brown Butter, etc.) and I’ve come across a number of Sabayon interpretations as well (White Chocolate, apple cider, Sambucca etc.) that they both seemed like good basic things to have in the repertoire.

This recipe was nothing more than some slices of Orange served with a Rosemary Sabayon. Simple, elegant, light. A nice break from the heavy 35-layer chocolate cakes out there. I’m not yet at the point where I’ll be inventing sauces like this, if for no other reason than just about every idea I’ve ever had has already been done and written about online (thank you Google and Flickr).


Otherwise, I’m going to call this a victory for the better angles of simplicity. No tuile garnish, no Dried fruit chips. It was hard to do, but still encouraging to know that restraint is possible.

Posted in Fruit, Sauce | 1 Comment »

Tropical Ice Cream Plate

Posted by osakaben41 on August 22, 2009

ice cream

The Cookbook library is starting to grow out of control these days, but my last remaining justification is that I’ve used each one at least once.  With that in mind, I had to get around to doing something from the amazing CIA textbook, Frozen Desserts by Francisco Migoya.  The decision to buy this one wasn’t easy at the time.  It’s expensive (but I had a coupon), the aesthetic is much more stark and modern than rustic and homey (Think Mies van der Rohe vs. This Old House), and as it was written for the professional pastry chef, calls for ingredients (Trimoline?) and tools (Pacojet?) that I don’t think my wife will let me get. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Cake, Ice Cream, Tropical Fruit | 2 Comments »

Lemon Layer Birthday Cake

Posted by osakaben41 on August 15, 2009

Lemon cake

Working under the directive that I need to dispose one way or another of each ‘project’ before starting the next one, it’s nice now and then to get a commission.  It means I get to bake late into the night, take some pictures, pass off a cake that hopefully makes somebody happy, and immediately dive back into the next idea. 

With that in mind, I was asked to make a birthday cake this weekend for a friend.  The general idea was to do something with Lemon, but without nuts, coconut, or other fruit.  It’s for a birthday, so we need to stay relatively traditional (nobody wants to blow out a candle stuck in a flan), the Lemon should make for the centerpiece (no lemon buttermilk sorbet as an side to a white chocolate bread pudding), and no exotic flavor pairings (lemon/kiwi parfaits).

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Posted in Cake, Lemon | 4 Comments »

Chocolate / Coffee Tarts with Hazelnut Brittle

Posted by osakaben41 on August 13, 2009

Chocolate Tarts

With each experiment I put out there, the constant refrain has been, “nice, but where’s the chocolate?”  I’ve got an ever-growing list of exotic things to play with from Lychee nuts to Passion Fruit (if I could ever find some in Boston that is), but I haven’t done much with Chocolate yet.

I’ll admit to being somewhat intimidated of getting into tempering and shaping decorations.  There might have been some unfortunate experiments years back involving painting leaves with chocolate, but it never looks as good as the picture, and I end up with melted chocolate covering everything.  The tools get wildly expensive pretty quickly, and perhaps August isn’t the best time to start down this road.  Sometimes though you just have to give the people what they want.

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Posted in Chocolate, Tarts | 1 Comment »

Green Tea Madeleines

Posted by osakaben41 on August 7, 2009



I’ve been dying for an excuse to do something with Matcha powder ever since this recent baking obsession began, and am only now getting around to it.  The last few ‘projects’ have tended to be a bit heavy, and with a rich whopper of a challenge to work on this month for the DB’s, this week demanded something more modest.

 So rather than an entire cake, I went with a tea and cookie approach.  Months ago I ran across the idea of a Green Tea Madeleine, and was so inspired I just had to run out and get a Madeleine tin.  With the benefit of hindsight, I should have gone for the metal version, as my silicone one just doesn’t get you that satisfying dark color, but I can’t justify buying another one now.

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Posted in Cookies | Leave a Comment »

Red Currants

Posted by osakaben41 on August 3, 2009


One of the first things that became apparent when I started frequenting food blogs was the prevalence of red currents.  It could have been that so many great bloggers were writing from the UK, Singapore, or Paris, where I suppose these are more readily available.  So imagine my surprise when I stumble on what I assumed were fresh red currants near my office the other day.  Without any plan, I just had to buy some.

Currants 2

So what do people do with these then?  I looked all over and came across a bunch of fantastic pictures of them used in plated desserts, mixed with strawberries for pink bavarian/mousses, or reduced into a jam.  In short, a supporting role, rarely a main star.  It seemed a shame to take something so inherently beautiful and hide it behind a strawberry, but after eating a few, I realized they were very very tart, and had seeds like a pomegranate.  Serving them raw was not an option.  My son may be allergic to Strawberries, so that was a dead end also.  Lastly, I could use a break from making mousses.

The matter actually resolved itself as we stumbled into having friends over for dinner tonight, and I still had a good deal of tart crust left over from the Lemon Cream Tart experiment.  So we picked up some fruit from the local farmer’s market, whipped up a berry tart, and reduced the currants with a little (ok, actually a lot) of sugar, some lemon juice and water into a quick sauce.  The tart was actually pretty pedestrian, and I didn’t use nearly enough sauce to let it come through, but what I was able to taste, when I tasted it, was quite unique.


So call it a quickie experiment, but at least I know what they taste like now.  If anybody out there has some great ideas on how to use these, drop a line.  Any and all suggestions will be appreciated.

Posted in dough, Tarts | Leave a Comment »