Sunday, January 22, 2017

Lemon Cheesecake Mousse

Here in Menton, la FĂȘte du Citron (Lemon Festival) is almost upon us. This year's theme is Broadway Musicals. A couple of years ago, the citrus structures were inspired by a famous Jules Verne novel, Les tribulations d'un Chinois en Chine (Tribulations of a Chinaman in China).

And when life gives you lemons, you make... lemon desserts! My partner found this amazing lemon mousse recipe online, which I tweaked slightly to match the ingredients I find here. The original recipe can be found here:
For my version of it (less sweet, but same silky smooth texture), keep reading.

Yields 6 to 10 servings.

1 cup crushed Speculoos cookies (brown sugar cinnamon cookies) 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
3 tablespoon (42g) butter, melted

2 1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice 
1 1/2 tablespoon water 
3 sheets unflavored gelatin (or 1 and 1/2 teaspoons powder gelatin) 
1 cup (250ml) heavy cream 
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar 
Yellow food coloring (optional) 
300 grams (about 10 oz.) cream cheese, softened 
1 (10 oz) jar lemon curd (I used a 320 g. jar of Chiver's) 
Sweetened whipped cream, lemon wedges, blueberries and mint for garnish (optional)

In a mixing bowl whisk together cookie crumbs and salt. Pour in butter and stir until evenly moistened. Divide mixture among 6 - 10 dessert cups and lightly press into an even layer, set aside. 
Pour lemon juice and water into a small bowl. Cut gelatin sheets into small squares and immerse in the liquid, let rest 5 minutes. Meanwhile, whip heavy cream in a medium mixing bowl until soft peaks form. Add confectioner's sugar, and yellow food coloring if desired, and whip until stiff peaks form. In a separate large mixing bowl whip cream cheese until smooth and fluffy. Mix lemon curd into cream cheese mixture. 
Heat rested gelatin mixture in the microwave on high power for 30 seconds. Whisk for 1 minute to thoroughly dissolve gelatin, then let cool 3 minutes (no longer or it may start to set then you could end up with little lumps in the mousse). While mixing cream cheese mixture with hand mixer, slowly pour in gelatin mixture then blend until thoroughly combined. Gently fold 1/3 of the whipped cream mixture into the cream cheese mixture to lighten, then add remaining whipped cream and gently fold until combined. Spoon or pipe mixture into dessert cups over cookie crumb layer. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours (or up to 1 day ahead if desired) to set. Garnish as desired. Serve cold.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Torta Caprese

Last year, one of my coworkers came back from Naples, Italy with an original dessert created on the island of Capri. It is a flourless cake, both rich in flavor and light in texture. It is normally enjoyed "as is", but a little bit of Chantilly cream on the side never hurt anybody!

6 oz. (170 g) dark chocolate (I used 64% cocoa)
3/4 cup (160 g) unsalted butter, cut in dice
3 large eggs
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/4 cup ground almond meal (I used 125 g)
1 tablespoon amaretto (or any other almond liquor)
Confectioner's (icing) sugar to sprinkle

Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F).
Butter and line an 8-inch wide (20 cm) springform pan  with baking paper.
In a double boiler (or in a microwave oven), melt the chocolate and butter together. Let cool.
In another bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar with electric beaters until the mixture turns a pale yelllow and triples in volume.
Using a spatula, gently fold the chocolate mixture, alternating with the ground almond meal and amaretto, into the egg mixture. Pour batter into the pan.
Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out with lumps and not completely clean. Cool completely before removing from the pan.
Using a sieve, sprinkle confectioners sugar on top before serving.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Blueberry Zucchini Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Yes, you read it right: zucchini in a dessert. Since I just got fresh blueberries from the produce market in Ventimiglia, I just had to try. And I couldn't be more pleased with the result! The cake comes out incredibly moist, with a good balance between the tartness of the blueberries and the sweetness of the frosting. 

3 large eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
2 cups shredded zucchini (1 medium-sized zucchini)
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda 

 2 cups blueberries (tossed in 1 tbsp flour)

1/2 cup butter, unsalted, at room temperature
11 oz. (300 grams) of cream cheese
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups confectioner's sugar

Set oven to 350F (or 180°C).
Lightly grease and flour a 9x13 baking pan (or 2 round 9-inch pans like I did).
Beat the eggs, oil, vanilla and sugar until well blended. Fold in the shredded zucchini.
Whisk the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda to combine. Slowly add it to the wet mixture, mixing just enough to blend.
Fold in the blueberries, and pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 50 minutes, just until the top is turning golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out without wet batter clinging to it. Cool on a rack.
To make the frosting, put the softened butter and the cream cheese into the bowl of a food processor and beat until creamy. Add the confectioner's sugar, one cup at a time, processing till smooth after each addition. After the second cup of sugar add in the lemon juice. Scrape down the sides of the machine as necessary. Adjust the texture by adding a little more lemon or a little more sugar.
Frost the cooled cake and store in the refrigerator.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Brioche feuilletée (puff pastry brioche)

There is this bakery where my parents live that makes delicious breads and viennoiseries. I'm not so crazy about their desserts, but they've created this unique brioche, made of homemade puff pastry rolls, laced with a sugary syrup, which we just have to have whenever we visit. I've looked up their recipe everywhere online for a very long time, without success, until someone posted the following recipe by Philippe Conticini on their blog and instagram profile. It turns out to be extremely similar to what I was looking for. It is a little bit time-consuming to make but the result is worth every effort you put into this! It does taste as good as it looks, so why not give it a try!

510 grams (about 4 cups) all-purpose flour
 1 teaspoon salt
40 grams sugar
15 cl. milk (about 2/3 cup)
20 grams fresh baker's yeast
3 eggs
50 grams butter, room temperature (3 and 1/2 tablespoons)
300 grams butter for layering (2 and 2/3 sticks)

50 grams sugar (1/4 cup)
30 grams water (1/8 cup)
brown sugar to sprinkle (1/3 cup)

Make the syrup. In a saucepan over high heat, whisk sugar into water to dissolve, and bring to a boil. Boil for a minute, then remove from the heat and set aside.

In the bowl of your food processor, place sugar, eggs, milk and flour and crumble yeast on top. Knead for 5 minutes until the dough forms a ball. Then add salt and butter previously cut in small cubes. Knead until butter is fully incorporated and dough is smooth. Cover dough loosely with cling film and let double in volume.
When the dough has doubled in volume (1h30 for me), place on parchment/baking paper. With floured hands, punch to remove gas and give it a ball shape.
Put the dough in the fridge to stop it from rising and make it easier to work with.
Meanwhile, shape the layering butter into a rectangular 20 x 25 cm (8 x 10 in.). Use parchment paper to enfold butter and flatten with a rolling pin. Place in the fridge, so that the butter can be at the same temperature as the dough.
Take the dough out and spread into a rectangle 45 by 25 cm (18 x 10 in.) with the rolling pin. Place the butter in the center and fold the two sides over to enclose the butter in it.

Turn dough with the folded edge facing you then spread the dough over 60 to 70 cm (24 to 28 in.).

Do the 1st round of layering by folding the bottom third of the dough over the middle, then the upper third. Turn to a 90 ° angle in order to have the folded edge on the left side and chill for 20 minutes.

Repeat this process 2 more times, letting dough chill in the fridge for 20 minutes between each round.
When all 3 rounds are done, roll the dough into a rectangle 35 by 45 cm (14 x 18 in.).

Brush surface with syrup and sprinkle with brown sugar, reserving a 3 cm strip (about 1 in.) on one side lengthwise.
Roll the dough up tightly to form a coil. Press well on the seam to seal. Transfer the roll on a board and cut into 10 rolls (4,5 cm wide) by using cooking string.

Butter two loaf pans (I used baking paper in one of them but it didn't make a difference).
Place 5 rolls per pan.

 Let them rise until doubled in volume (about 1 hour depending on the room temperature).

Preheat oven to 180°C  (about 350°F) and bake for 30 minutes (golden brown). Enjoy!      

Sunday, December 20, 2015


I discovered Thanksgiving when I spent my first year in Louisiana. There is nothing more reminiscent of Thanksgiving to me than a pecan pie. One bite into the buttery crust, the gooey custard, and the crunchy nuts, and I'm transported back in time, around a table filled with mashed sweet potatoes, sausage and oyster stuffing, and home-baked sourdough bread.

2 cups all-purpose flour (250 grams)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil or butter, softened
1/3 cup  warm water

5 tablespoons butter
1 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups pecan halves
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 eggs

Make the crust. In a bowl, mix all ingredients together and knead just long enough to combine them well. Shape dough into a ball, wrap in cling film and let rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 12-inch round and fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim edge. Lightly prick bottom all over with a fork and set aside.
In a small heavy saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add brown sugar, whisking until smooth. Remove from heat and whisk in corn syrup, vanilla, and salt. Lightly beat eggs in a medium bowl, then whisk in corn syrup mixture. Put pecans in pie shell and pour corn syrup mixture evenly over them (I set aside 25-30 pecan halves to place decoratively on top of the filling). Bake until filling is set, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Cool completely. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Lemon Almond Pound Cake (with Streusel)

The following recipe makes 2 bundt cakes, or one large round cake. I only made half the recipe today and used a loaf pan. This is definitely not your average pound cake, but its texture is both dense and moist. The apple is completely optional. I dice it very finely so that the pieces almost melt into the batter. The crumble on top (streusel) is also optional. I just love the crunchy layer it adds this dessert. 

1 cup butter, softened
3 cups white sugar
1 cup plain yogurt
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 apple, peeled, cored and finely diced (optional)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven at 325°F. Butter and flour two loaf or bundt cake pans.
For the cake batter, cream together sugar and butter. Then add yogurt (I used a Greek yogurt) and oil.
Sift flour, baking soda and salt, and add to the wet mixture alternating with the eggs, one at a time.
Add almond extract, juice and zest of lemon.
Mix in the apple bits.
Pour batter into the prepared cake pans.
Bake for 60 minutes.

For the streusel, mix all ingredients with your fingers until mixture is crumbly.
When the cake has been baking for 30 minutes, open the oven door and carefully sprinkle streusel on top of the cake batter and bake for another 30 minutes (or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean).
I find that it is better to bake the cake for 30 minutes before adding the streusel on top for two reasons: 1. The streusel bakes a lot faster than the cake batter, and it tends to burn before the cake underneath has had enough time to bake, and 2. The streusel mixture is heavier than the cake batter and it tends to sink into the middle of the cake if sprinkled before the cake batter has had time to bake and gain consistency.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Black Forest Cake (sans Kirsch)

Here's my take on the classic Black Forest cake. Instead of the typical chocolate sponge though, I used my dark chocolate cake recipe as a base, because it always comes out so moist and flavorful. I didn't have any cherry liquor (Kirsch) in my pantry, but I did have a jar of my mom's delicious dark cherries in syrup. And I made the chantilly cream a bit denser, as I usually do, by adding cream cheese to the mix. So, like I said, not the purest form of Black Forest out there, but my own version, and it seems to please others as well!

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup strong black coffee
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract


1 jar of dark cherries (preferably stoned) in syrup
1 1/3 cups liquid heavy cream (at least 30% fat), chilled
5 oz. cream cheese (or 150 grams), chilled
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1 vanilla pod)
1 dark chocolate tablet (at least 46% cocoa)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare 2 x 9″ cake pans with butter and flour or parchment paper. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Add the remaning ingredients to the bowl, mixing well after each addition, using a whisk or electric beaters. The batter will be liquidy. Pour into prepared pans.

Bake for 20 minutes, then rotate the pans in the oven. Bake 15 minutes longer or until a toothpick comes out clean – approximately 35 minutes total. Cool on wire racks for 20 minutes then gently invert onto racks until completely cool.
Pour the cream into a mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, whip the chilled heavy cream until it thickens and forms stiff peaks (about 5 minutes). Add cream cheese, vanilla and confectioner's sugar and beat for another minute, until well incorporated. Place bowl in the fridge.

Cut each cake horizontally in order to obtain 4 layers. Place first layer down on serving plate, use a couple of tablespoons of cherry syrup to moisten the cake and spread 1/3 of stoned cherries. Get the bowl with whipped cream out of the fridge (Reserve one half to cover top layer and sides). Spread one third of the other half on top of of the first layer.

Repeat with other layers. Cover top layer with the reserved half of whipped cream and spread it all over the cake (top and sides). With a sharp knife, shave dark chocolate tablet to make woodchip looking bits. Sprinkle over the cake.

Now slice and enjoy!





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