Perhaps it's the much-awaited onset of spring, the robins and geese have finally returned to us, the trees are just starting to bud, blades of green grass are finally pushing up through the brown mulch, and most importantly, the sun is shining and I can leave the house in one layer of clothes instead of nine. Yup - I am hereby declaring it official - Spring has arrived in Edmonton! ....now we just have 5 more weeks to go before it's actually safe to plant things!
The arrival of spring has sort of put me into a "green" mood in my baking. I've gone on a bit of a pistachio bender, if you will. It started innocently enough, with my pistachio macarons for this month's MacTweets Challenge. When it came to making a nice small dessert for my mom's birthday, I went right back to my stash of pistachios (or should I say pi-stashios, LOL). With only four of us at dinner, it didn't make much sense to make an entire birthday cake - especially with her leaving on a vacation the very next morning. So I switched up my favourite financier recipe a bit and swapped out the almonds for pistachios, and the result was sensational. They turned out moist and tender, but with a lovely crisp crust. They had an amazingly deep pistachio flavour which I knew would pair beautifully with that incredible Lemon Cream I used for Pie Day, so I quickly whipped up another batch of that, add some candied lemon peel as a garnish and voilà! Mom's birthday dessert was complete! Now all I had to do was wrap her gift...
Last year, for Mom's 60th (sorry Mom!), sis & I cashed in our air miles and treated Mom to 5 days with her girls in the city of lights, Paris. Mom had never been to Europe in her life, and us girls decided she was long overdue. After all, I know Paris is my favourite city on the planet (so far - to be fair, I haven't seen every city on earth), and it definitely in the top 3 for my sister. We had a fantastic time showing her the sights, but the highlight of the whole trip was her little brother (our favourite uncle) arriving halfway through our trip to surprise her. Of course sis & I were in on the whole deal, but you can't imagine the thrill of seeing her face when she realized the stranger putting his arm around her while she was posing for a photo was actually her baby brother from Toronto. It was the trip of a lifetime for our family. Okay, so that was last year's gift... how do you follow that?!? I have to say, this year, when I took the day off work to hang out with the birthday girl and get in some serious mall-time, it kinda sucked to say to her "Happy birthday Mom, we're not going to Paris"
There you have it. Happy birthday Mom, I love you!
(adapted from Paris Sweets by Dorie Greenspan)
makes about 12 mini-muffin sized cakes
makes a lot more if using a smaller mold
1 1/2 sticks (180 g) unsalted butter
1 Cup (201 g) granulated sugar
1 Cup (100 g) ground pistachios (unsalted)
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2/3 Cup (90 g) all-purpose flour
Put the butter in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium heat, swirling the pan occasionally. Allow the butter to bubble away until it turns a deep brown, but don't turn your back on the pan - the difference between brown and black is measured in seconds. Pull the pan from the heat and keep it in a warm place.
Mix the sugar and pistachios together in a large saucepan. Stir in the egg whites, place the pan over low heat, and, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, heat the mixture until it is runny, slightly white, and hot to the touch (about 2 minutes). Remove the pan from heat and stir in the flour, then gradually mix in the the melted butter. Transfer the batter to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, pressing it against the surface of the batter to create an airtight seal, and chill for at least 1 hour (the batter can be kept covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days).
Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400F (200C). Prepare baking pan or molds - for this recipe, I used a new baking pan I picked up, which makes 6 muffin-sized financier cakes with a concave reservoir on the bottom. - perfect for serving upside-down and filled with Lemon Cream!
Fill each mold almost to the top with batter. Slide the molds into the oven and bake for 12-13 minutes, or until the financiers are golden, crowned and springy to the touch. If necessary, run a blunt knife between the financier and the molds, then turn them out of their molds and allow them to cool to room temperature right side up on cooling racks.
Lemon Cream from Baking by Dorie Greenspan
1 Cup (201g) sugar
grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 Cup (180ml) fresh lemon juice (4-5 lemons)
2 sticks plus 5 Tbsp (299g) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
Have an instant-read thermometer, a strainer and blender (preferred) or food processor at hand. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.
Put the sugar and the zest in a large, heatproof bowl that can be set over the pan of simmering water. Off the heat, rub the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs, followed by the lemon juice.
Set the bowl over the saucepan and start stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch - you must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling - you'll see that the mixture starts out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then, as it gets closer to 180°F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. Heads up at this point - the tracks mean the cream is almost ready. Don't stop whisking or checking the temperature, and have patience - depending on how much heat you're giving the cream, getting to 180°F can take as long as 10 minutes.
As soon as it reaches 180°F, remove the cream from heat and strain it into the container of the blender (or bowl of the food processor); discard the zest. Let the cream stand, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140°F, about 10 minutes.
Turn the blender to high (or turn on the food processor) and, with the machine running, add the butter about 5 pieces at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed, as you incorporate the butter. Once the butter has all been added, keep the machine going - to get the light, airy texture of lemon-cream dreams, you must continue to blend the cream for another 3 minutes. If your machine protests and it gets too hot, work in 1-minute intervals, giving the machine a little rest between beats.
Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight. The cream will keep in the fridge up to 4 days (HA! Not once you taste it, it won't!)
Spoon the lemon cream over top of the large financiers, garnish with some candied or fresh lemon zest and enjoy!