Monthly Archives: February 2012

Three King’s Cake

A few weeks ago, my roommate and I had a BRILLIANT idea…a brilliantly tasty idea.  As it was close to Epiphany, we thought we would make a Three King’s Cake – or “galette des rois” in French.  This “cake” is more like one large turnover, made with puff pastry and a frangipane filling.  Frangipane is a sweet, almond and sugar combination that is used in pies or tarts…I used it as the base of an apricot tart once.  It’s similar to the filling of streudel or other breakfast pastries.

In any case – there is a tradition that goes along with this cake : inside, one hides a bean or a coin.  Once the cake is cooked, cut, and distributed, the person who ends up with the coin is considered the “king” or “queen” of the evening.  In French culture, upon cutting the galette, the youngest child hides under the table and announces who receives what piece…and everyone wants to find the coin.  For those of you who want to learn moreeeeee click here.

So Pauline and I, together, in our (poorly equipped…) college community room, prepared this treat for a few French (and American) friends…I’ll admit, Pauline was the workhorse behind this recipe as I had never made a King’s Cake…but I got to place the coin (we used a piece of pasta…) in the cake.  It’s a really simple recipe that doesn’t take much work and it is definitely worth noting.

So even though Mardi Gras has passed by…as has Epiphany and we are now in Lent and you probably gave up sweets (pity…) – this would be an excellent addition to breakfast with a cup of hot coffee, no crowns necessary.

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Ingredients :
– 2 sheets of puff pastry
– 1 1/4 cup almond flour/meal
– 1/3 cup sugar
– 1 egg
– 3 1/3 tbsp butter, softened
– 1/4 tsp almond extract
– 1 egg yolk (for painting the dough)
– 1 coin/bean

Preheat oven to 400F. If the puff pastry is frozen, allow it to thaw completely before unwrapping.  If you don’t wait, it will just break.  Take one sheet and press it into the cake pan, cutting it to size .  With a fork, score the pastry (basically cover it with holes).  This will allow steam to escape when cooking and decreases the chance for air bubbles…which while they might look cool don’t do anything for flavor…they’re full of hot air.  😉

In a bowl, mix together all of the ingredients – the almond powder, the sugar, the egg, the softened butter and the almond extract.  I suggest putting the butter in first, followed by the sugar, the eggs, the extract, and the finally the almond flour.

Pour this mixture on top of the puff pastry, making sure to spread the filling evenly.  It would be wise to leave a small border  devoid of filling – this will make sealing the pastry easier.  Put a bean, coin, or small NOT HEAT SENSITIVE object somewhere in the filling, preferable near the border so that you don’t cut it accidentally.  We used a pasta…in hindsight this was probably not the wisest choice as our “fève” was eaten !  We never found out who the King was (or queen, as there were only females present for most of the nibbling process…sorry Matt !) and therefore just decided it was a mystery.

Using the second piece of puff pastry, cover the filling and make sure to pinch the edges well.  Again, cut the piece of pastry to fit the mould – no need to have TOO much excess as it will just take longer to cook.

To make the top an even (and beautiful) golden color, take the yolk of an egg and mix it with a small amount of water.  Paint the top of the cake with this mixture.  Then, score the top with a fork just like you scored the bottom piece.

Cook for about 30 minutes – just enough time for the top to be golden brown.

Wait for the cake to cool a little, then cut the cake !

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Pumpkin Chocolate-Chip Muffins

Sometimes, you just have a bad day.
And I mean a terrible day.
Nothing goes right, you’re cranky, irritable, fed-up and frustrated.
So was Monday of this past week…an evening spent ignoring all homework, unable to focus, glued to facebook….

What does any of this have to do with cooking ?

EVERYTHING!

Because had I not been so downright pissed, I wouldn’t have made these muffins which you are about to discover – the best cure for a case of the grumpies : Pumpkin chocolate-chip muffins.  My mom often made this during the month of October (or just in autumn really) as a treat for my sister and I when we got back from school after a rough morning, so I figured they would be my best bet at regaining a little joie de vivre.   These muffins, best served warm, are an excellent compliment to a cup of tea on a chilly afternoon.  The pumpkin is accentuated nicely by a blend of spices, often called “pumpkin pie spice,” consisting of ginger, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon.  So – get rid of that awful day ! Roll up your sleeves, grease the muffin tin, and get some cheap (cooking) therapy.

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Pumpkin Chocolate-Chip Muffins

1 3/4 cups of flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice*
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 2/3 cup pumpkin
1/2 cup butter (melted)
1 cup of chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Before mixing anything together – make sure to grease the muffin tin. Muffins are funny – unlike cupcakes, they do not have handy little liners to ensure a clean escape from the pan.  As a result, they often stick and refuse removal.  Do yourself a favor – even if you have a nonstick pan, use the wrapper form the stick of butter you are going to melt and just quickly wipe the inside of each cup.  You can also use a nonstick spray, such as Pam, to oil the tin.In one bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt (if desired) and pumpkin pie spice.OH !  A word on that spice mixture.  Pumpkin pie spice can be bought in supermarkets but I rarely have it on hand simply because I like to “personalize” my spice blends.  The spices involved here are CLOVES, CINNAMON, NUTMEG and GINGER and maybe ALLSPICE.  Ground cloves are very strong – a little goes a long way.  Nutmeg is a spice that is used in both sweet AND savory dishes and goes very well with fruits.  Cinnamon is fairly common – I tend to add more cinnamon than called for in a recipe as I find the flavor pleasant.  Ginger is the star of items like gingerbread (surprise) in the baking world and asian cuisine in the cooking world.  Like cloves, it tends to be powerful so again – less is more.   I love cloves and nutmeg, so I am more heavy-handed with these spices in my recipes.  You have been warned.

SO – if you have these lovely additions on hand in your kitchen, add the following amounts to the flour mixture :

2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp ginger

Mix the dry ingredients together so that they are well-incorporated and set this aside.

On the stovetop (on in the microwave…), melt the butter.  Measure out the pumpkin and put this in a large mixing bowl.  Add the butter to the pumpkin, mixing well.  Continually stirring, pour the sugar into the pumpkin mixture, stirring until the mixture has lightened slightly and looks smooth.  To this, add both eggs and vanilla, again stirring until everything is uniform.

Take the dry ingredients and fold them into the wet ingredients, mixing until JUST COMBINED.  The tough bit about muffins is…well…they can get tough.  Literally.  Over-mixing the dough will make for an unpleasantly dense and almost elastic texture that should be avoided.

Add the chocolate chips.  The recipe suggests 1 cup – I say it’s your call.  If you love chocolate, go ahead and add a bit more. If you prefer pumpkin, do not add as many.  Simple.  🙂

Using a spatula, slowly portion out the dough into the muffin cups.  Be careful not to fill each cup to the brim as it will overflow and consequently burn.  Regular muffin pans are a pain to wash…burned ones are a nightmare SO this is to be avoided.  I suggest filling each cup until about 2/3 full.  If you have extra batter (it happens) fill the muffins on the edges, rather than the middle, first.  These will have a tendency to cook faster and therefore if fuller than the muffins on the inside, will not be dry.

Cook for 15 – 20 minutes or until the muffins are springy to the touch.  Allow them to cool for 10 minutes before removing or eating.  If you attempt to take them out right away, they might fall apart.  Better to err on the safe side.  Also – you’ll burn your tongue.  Can’t you hear your mother now ?

Happy nibbling !

Categories: English | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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