Shavuot Ideas – Saffron Semifreddo with a Dried Cherry-Cardamom Sauce and Almond-Orange Financiers

Chocolate is most people’s guilty pleasure, but my guilty pleasure is ice cream. And not just any ice cream, but luscious Italian gelato, preferably eaten in Italy at one of my favorite gelateria, Perche No!, in Firenze, or in Israel at Gelateria Siciliana on Ibn Givrol in Tel Aviv.

I also enjoy making my own ice cream and sorbet at home, which I have blogged in several posts here.

The final course for the dinner party last week was a recipe for semifreddo that intrigued me from the moment I saw it on the Food52 website. Semifreddo literally means “half-frozen” and is a frozen dessert that has a mousse-like texture from equal parts of ice cream custard and whipped double (heavy) cream.

I didn’t deviate from the recipe at all and even made the salted-honey hazelnuts, but in the rush of trying to serve the dessert, I forgot to plate them. It was actually better in the end because it would have been too much of a taste contrast with the mini almond-orange financiers I served on the side. The dessert was a huge hit, which made me very happy since Mimi was afraid that some of the guests might not like the taste of saffron. I used a very high quality saffron that I had been keeping for a special occasion.

Sarah, from Foodbridge, brought a large bag filled with Surinam Cherries, also known as Pitanga in Brazil. They were a perfect decoration for the top of the semifreddo and were also quite delicious. I had never had them before but they  remind me of cherries, which as my faithful readers know is one of my favorite fruits.

Mimi suggested that we serve an alternative to the semifreddo, so I decided to make mini financiers which I baked in a silcone chocolate mold that can withstand up to 220C (425F). Financiers are a light teacake, similar to sponge cake, and are usually made of almond flour, a beurre noisette (brown butter), egg whites, icing sugar and flour. Financiers are often baked in rectangular-shaped molds which are suppose to resemble a bars of gold. You can find these molds in cooking shops, such as 4Chef, in Tel Aviv.

The dessert was a huge hit and I will definitely make this again. I made the semifreddo a couple of days in advance and made the financiers the day before, but you could easily make these several days before and freeze them.

The dessert was served with Mimi’s delicious homemade liqueurs. On offer were lemoncello, geranium, apricot, strawberry and coffee. I love all of them, but my personal favorite is apricot.

Saffron Semifreddo with Cherry Cardamom Syrup and Salted Honey Hazelnuts

Serving Size: 6

For the Saffron semifreddo:

5 large egg yolks

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon high quality saffron threads

1 tablespoon sweet vermouth

1 cup double (heavy) cream

For cherry-cardamom syrup:

1/2 cup dried, unsweetened cherries

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cardamom, toasted

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup filtered water

For the salted honey-hazelnuts:

1/2 cup hazelnuts

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoons honey

For the Saffron semifreddo:

Bring a small saucepan or double boiler with water to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. Have an ice water bath big enough for the base of the double boiler or mixing bowl on standby.

In a medium glass bowl or the pan of a double boiler, combine the egg yolks, sugar, and saffron threads. Place the bowl or pan over the simmering water and whisk constantly until the mixture is thick and doubled in volume.

Remove from heat and submerge in the ice water bath, continuing to stir to bring down the temperature. If the mixture gets too cold and is sticking to the bottom of the pan, it will release easily if you run hot water on the outside of the bowl.

Beat the heavy cream in a mixer until soft peaks form. Set aside.

Place the egg yolk mixture and the sweet vermouth in the bowl of mixer with a whip attachment, and whip until the mixture becomes thick and pale in color.

Add a third of the whipped cream to the egg mixture and stir together gently. Fold in the remaining whipped cream into the egg mixture. When this is done, you can spoon the mixture into 6 individual ramekins, or place it in a plastic cellophane lined loaf pan, or decorative silicone mold of your choice. Cover the ramekins or other container with plastic wrap and freeze until firm, at least 6 hours. To serve, run a butter knife under hot water and cut around the edge of the ramekin to invert the semifreddo onto individual plates. Serve with the cherry-cardamom syrup and salted honey-hazelnuts (recipes to follow).

For cherry-cardamom syrup:

Combine all of the ingredients into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the syrup is reduced by half and coats the back of a spoon. Set aside to cool.

For the salted honey-hazelnuts:

Preheat oven to 180C (350F) degrees.

Place the hazelnuts in a small mixing bowl and toss with the olive oil and sea salt. Add honey and toss once more to coat. Transfer the nuts to a silpat-lined baking sheet and bake, stirring at least once, until the nuts are golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

Once the hazelnuts have cooled, roughly chop the nuts and serve alongside the semifreddo.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2010/05/16/shavuot-ideas-saffron-semifreddo-with-a-dried-cherry-cardamom-sauce-and-almond-orange-financiers/

 

Almond-Orange Financiers

Yield: 21 5 x 10-cm (2 x 4-inch) financiers or 50 mini

30g (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted, for buttering 21 financier molds

140g (1 cup) almond flour or finely ground blanched almonds

210g (1-2/3 cups) icing (confectioner's) sugar

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Zest of one large orange

Pinch of salt

5 large egg whites

185 g (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Preheat the oven to 220C (425F).

With a pastry brush, butter the financier molds with the 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Arrange them side-by-side, but not touching, on a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet with the buttered molds in the freezer to re-solidify the butter and make the financiers easier to unmold.

In a large bowl, combine the almonds, sugar, flour, orange zest and salt. Mix to blend. Add the egg whites and mix until thoroughly combined. Add the 3/4 cup of butter and mix until blended. The mixture will be fairly thin and pourable.

Spoon the batter into the molds, filling them almost to the rim. Place the baking sheet in the center of the oven. Bake until the financiers just being to rise, about 7 minutes. Reduce the heat to 200C (400F). Bake until the financiers are a light, delicate brown and begin to firm up, about another 7 minutes. Turn off the oven and let the financiers rest in the oven until firm, about another 7 minutes.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the financiers cool in the molds for 10 minutes. Unmold.

(Note: If you are using metal Financier molds, then wash them immediately with a stiff brush in hot water without detergent so that they retain their seasoning.) The financiers may be stored in an airtight container for several days.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2010/05/16/shavuot-ideas-saffron-semifreddo-with-a-dried-cherry-cardamom-sauce-and-almond-orange-financiers/

P is for Patience and Passover

Spring has sprung all over Israel. Almond trees, hollyhocks and other indigenous wildflowers are all in bloom. And spring means we have moved our clocks forward and are now frantically preparing our homes for seven days of Passover, which starts tomorrow night. A time where we have to get rid of every little speck of bread, flour, etc. that may be still hanging around the house. It is a holiday where you need a lot of patience; something that I have a lack of, I must admit. Yes, Mr. BT, I really am admitting that I, Baroness Tapuzina, am impatient.

We are going to be spending the seder with my cousins and so I don’t have to prepare a full seder this year, which is a good thing since I have spent the last several days coughing up both lungs. Yes, my body picked the worst time to have an upper respiratory infection. The good news is that this evening is the first time I haven’t had numerous coughing fits, so I think I am on the mend.

Mr. BT spent a good portion of the morning making his top secret, often imitated, but never duplicated, unbelievably delicious haroset. If the Pharoah had tasted this, he would have let our people go for the recipe, but I fear that Mr. BT wouldn’t have given it up. Would you believe that he won’t even let me watch him make it? And, I am the one who educated him about other haroset than the standard Ashkenazi ones.

I was tired of making the same almond flour-based cakes that I make every year, so I decided to challenge myself and make something I have been wanting to try for years, but was afraid that I wouldn’t have the patience to make them successfully: the French macaroon. I know, I am crazy to make something new for something as important as the Seder, but I really needed the challenge. What I didn’t need was a challenge when I felt like crap, but I had already bought the ingredients and I knew my loving husband would help me, wouldn’t you honey?

So, I read every blog post I could find about making macaroons. Some said to stay away like the plague (they didn’t say which one of the ten), others said after the 9th try you will get them right and don’t make the batter too thick or too thin. But, I didn’t let them scare me.

One of the most important things you must have to make a macaroon is a scale. It is very important to have exact measurements for this recipe. Scales are relatively inexpensive now. I purchased a nice digital scale for 55NIS/10GBP/15USD.

I cracked four eggs the day before I made the macaroons and let the egg whites “rest” in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Some people let them sit on the counter for 24-48 hours, but I was not too keen on leaving them out even though it is still cool enough to do that here. Every post, including Pierre Herme’s recipe, says that you should use old egg whites, meaning ones that have not been separated the same day you make the biscuits.

The other important part of making the perfect macaroon is to have feet on the outside of the biscuit. My macaroons did not have happy feet or any other kind of feet. I guess that will happen on my 9th try. And there will be another try. I must have my feet.

The macaroons turned out okay and surprisingly they did not try my impatience.  No, they don’t have happy feet and some of them wouldn’t come off the silpat, but I was able to salvage 40 out of the 70 I ended up making. I filled them with Rosemarie chocolate filling that I purchased at one of my favorite cooking shops, Touch Food.  I am presenting these macaroons as a gift for the host and hostess, instead of serving them as dessert for the seder.

We want to wish you and your family a happy, healthy and peaceful Pesach. And also Happy Easter.

Chag kosher v’sameach,

Baroness Tapuzina and Mr. BT

P.S. – Keep checking the blog. I am going to make a few new dishes during the week.

French Macaroons

Yield: about 25 filled or 50 unfilled

225g icing sugar

125g ground almonds

125g egg whites (from about 3 large eggs, but do weigh it out)

A few drops of lemon juice

25g caster (granulated) sugar

Food coloring of your choice (follow directions on box)

Place the egg whites in a bowl and refrigerate for 24-48 hours. Bring them to room temperature before you start making the macaroons.

Put the icing sugar and ground almonds in a food processor until you have a fine powder. Stop halfway through and loosen any bits that may have clumped in the bottom of the processor bowl.

Sift the almond mixture into a large mixing bowl several times, removing any of the chunky almond bits in the sifter.

Put the room temperature egg whites into a clean metal mixing bowl and whisk until they start to hold their shape. Add a few drops of lemon juice, then gradually whisk in the caster sugar in two lots until the whites form stiff peaks. Finally, whisk in the food coloring until well combined.

Mix one-third of the whites into the dry ingredients. Then tip the rest of the whites on top and, gently fold them in with a spatula, using a figure-eight motion. It will be stiff at first, but it will gradually loosen. You want it to be smooth and glossy, but not too liquidy. The texture is very important and tricky to judge: when you fold the mixture, it should form a ribbon on the surface. Too runny, and you’ll end up with flat crisps; too stiff, and it’s meringue.

Take your piping bag, fitted with an 8mm plain nozzle and fill the bag with the macaroon mix. Then turn up the sides and twist to seal the mixture inside to get rid of any air so that when you squeeze the bag, a solid stream of mixture comes out of the nozzle.

On about three baking trays that have been lined with silpat liners or parchment paper, pipe a round, 2cm-diameter (1-inch) blob (by squeezing the closed end of the bag). Lift the nozzle sharply to finish the blob. Repeat, leaving about 2cm (1-inch) around each one to allow for spreading (they should spread to about 3cm (1-1/2-inches). Continue until all the mixture has been piped – you should have about 50-60 blobs in all.

If any of the macaroons have nipples, smooth them gently with a wet finger. Let the macaroons rest for 45 minutes. This helps them to form a smooth shell when baked. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 130C (260F) fan (or 140C/280F).

Bake the macaroons in the middle of the oven, one tray at a time. After 5 or 6 minutes, they should start to rise, forming a lacy collar around the bottom. Cook for a total of 12-15 minutes – don’t let them burn. Remove from the oven and let them cool on the trays. You should then be able to remove them gently by moving the silpat liner away from the macaroon. If not, carefully ease off with a knife.

Pair macaroon shells of similar size and sandwich together with 1-2 tsp of the filling of your choice. Eat immediately, or keep in the fridge for a day to enable the flavour of the filling to enhance the macaroon.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2010/03/29/p-is-for-patience-and-passover/

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