Speculoos Spice Mix









I used to buy speculoos and gingerbread spice mixes. It never came to my mind making my own spice mixes. Just recently, I started to create my own speculoos and gingerbread mixes. It took a few trials until I got the spice mixes right, in particular, the speculoos spice mix. In the end I am glad that I did not give up - though I feel sorry for all the spices I wasted - and as a result I have my own signature speculoos spice mix with a hint of orange and lemon flavor that I would like to share with you.
You can use the speculoos mix for my Spekulatius cookie recipe that I posted two years ago. And you can use the speculoos mix for an upcoming cake recipe that I will share in the next couple of days.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 organic lemon or 1/4 teaspoon dried lemon zest
  • 1/2 organic orange or 1/4 teaspoon dried orange zest
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamon pods or powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon coriander seeds or powder
  • 2 generous pinches nutmeg

DIRECTIONS

  • Cut wide strips of orange and lemon zest. Let the strips of the citrus fruits dry for two to three days. It is important that the zest is completely dry. Chop the dried zest finely. You need about 1/4 teaspoon of each lemon and orange zest. 
  • Place all ingredients in a morter and mix all ingredients until it is a fine powder. 
  • Keep the speculoos mix in an airtight, preferable dark, tin.  Keep spices always in a dark, cool and dry place. 

Petite Pecan Mousse Cakes With Pear

Pear and chocolate is a classic combination. I always associate it with Poire belle Hélène ( the dessert was created by August Escoffier in 1870 in honor of Jacques Offenbach's operetta "La belle Hélène" ) which is a dessert that consists of poached pears, vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup. 
I was inspired by this dessert but at the same time I wanted to change things up and I combined besides chocolate and pears, pecans as well. It is the perfect match. Instead of making a classic chocolate mousse, I created a pecan mousse. I was not sure if a pecan mousse works since I have never tried a pecan mousse and I also never saw a cake with such a mousse in a pastry store. I do wonder why no one makes such a mousse because my pecan mousse turned out to be so delicious. And the pecan mousse goes so well with the pears. It is always a wonderful feeling when a cake turns out exactly how you envisioned it. Creating this cake was one of those happy baking moments and it reminds me why I love baking so much. 
Making these cakes requires a few steps but it is worth taking the time making these petite pecan mousse cakes. It is so rewarding pouring the chocolate glaze over the petite cakes. In fact, this is one of my favorite steps of making little mousse cakes.  



Makes 6 little cakes ( 7 cm / 2.75 inches in diameter)

PEAR CORES

  • 155 g / 1 cup ripe (not overripe) pears, cut into 1 cm cubes
  • 15 g / 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 50 ml / 1/4 cup pear juice or water
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 1 1/3 gelatin sheets (2 g), soaked
  • Pour the pear juice or water into a small saucepan, add sugar and ginger powder and bring it to a boil. Set the saucepan aside, add the cubed pears and mix well.
  • Divide the pear compote into six little moulds. The size of each mould I use is: 2.5 cm / 1 inch in diameter and 2.5 cm / 1 inch in height. 
  • Freeze the moulds for at least 2 hours. 

PECAN PASTE

  • 50 g / 1/2 cup pecans
  • 50 g / 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Preheat the oven to 150 °C / 300 °F. 
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the pecans on the baking sheet. 
  • Roast the pecans for 15 minutes. 
  • Towards the end of the roasting time (about 5 minutes), pour the sugar into a saucepan and let the sugar caramelize until it has a light brown color. Remove the saucepan from the heat, add the hot roasted pecans and stir well. Spread the mixture to a plate that is lined with parchment paper and let the caramelized pecans cool completely. Roughly chop the caramelized pecans, place the pecans into a (high-power) blender and blend until it becomes a paste. 
  • Keep the pecan paste in a sealed jar. The paste keeps up several weeks in the fridge. 

PECAN MOUSSE

  • 50 ml / 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 10 g / 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 15 g egg yolk / equals egg yolk of a medium sized egg
  • 125 g / 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/3 gelatin sheets (2 g), soaked
  • 55 g / 3 tablespoons pecan paste
  • Pour the heavy cream into a small saucepan and bring it almost to a boil. Set the saucepan aside.
  • Mix sugar and egg yolk in a small bowl. Slowly add the hot heavy cream to the egg yolk mixture and mix well. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan, Over medium heat, stir until the mixture has reached the temperature of 84 °C / 183 °F (you will notice that the mixture has thickened). Remove the saucepan from the heat, Add the gelatin, mix until the gelatin has completely melted, then add the pecan paste and mix well again. 
  • Pour the mixture into a medium sized bowl and let it cool to room temperature. 
  • In the meantime, whip the heavy cream until creamy. Fold the whipped cream into the pecan mixture. 
  • Fill hemisphere moulds ( 7 cm / 2.75 inches in diameter / I use silicon moulds) 2/3 with the pecan mousse. Unmould the frozen pear cores and gently press the frozen cores into the pecan mousse, 
  • Place the moulds in the freezer for at lest 4 hours or overnight. You can keep the frozen mousse cakes up to four weeks in the freezer. 

PECAN BROWNIE BOTTOM

  • 45 g / 1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
  • 30 g / 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 50 g / 2 ounces chocolate (70 %)
  • 75 g / 5 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 65 g / 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 egg (medium size)
  • 35 g / 1/4 cup pastry flour
  • Place the pecans and the powdered sugar in a pan and over medium heat caramelize the pecans. Place the caramelized pecans onto a piece of parchment paper and let the pecans cool completely. Chop the pecans roughly. 
  • Preheat the oven to 175 °C / 350 °F.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Place the chocolate and butter in a saucepan and let it melt over low heat. Set saucepan aside.
  • In a medium sized bowl, whisk sugar, butter and salt. Add the the melted chocolate butter mixture and stir well. 
  • Mix the flour with the chopped pecans and fold it into the batter. Do not overmix the batter. 
  • Spread the batter onto the baking sheet (the size of a 22 cm / 9 inches square). 
  • Bake the brownie batter for 9 to 11 minutes. 
  • Let the brownie cool completely; cut out 7 cm / 2.75 inches circles with a cookie cutter. 

CHOCOLATE GLAZE

  • 60 ml / 3 tablespoons water
  • 50 g / 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 105 g / 1/2 cup and 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 35 g / 1/3 cup unsweetened raw cacao, sifted
  • 2 2/3 gelatin sheets (4 g), soaked
  • Place water, heavy cream and granulated sugar into a medium sized saucepan and bring it almost to boil. Set the saucepan aside. Place the cacao powder into a big mug and pour half of the hot liquid to the cacao powder and mix well until there are no lumps. Add the cacao paste to the remaining hot mixture and stir well. Add the gelatin sheets and mix again well until the gelatin sheets are completely melted.
  • Pour the chocolate glaze through a sieve and let the glaze cool to room temperature. If the mixture is very thick, add a few drops of water and mix again or gently reheat the glaze.
  • If you do not use the glaze right away, pour the glaze into a jar and let it cool to room temperature. Cover the jar with a lit and store it in the fridge. You can keep the glaze for a few days in the fridge. If you want to use the glaze right away, let the glaze cool until it is lukewarm. 

ASSEMBLING

  • Unmould the frozen pecan mousse cakes. 
  • Place each frozen mousse cake on a brownie bottom. 
  • If you made the glaze in advance, place the glaze (it has a very thick consistency) in a saucepan and gently reheat the glaze. If the glaze is too thick add a little bit of water to it. 
  • Pour the glaze into a jug (I use a measuring jug) because than it is easier to pour the glaze over the cakes. When glazing the cake, it is important that the glaze is lukewarm and not hot. 
  • Place the frozen cakes on a wire rack and place a deep plate under the wire rack in order to catch the excess glaze, so you can reuse the glaze.
  • Pour the glaze over the frozen the cakes. Make sure that the mousse cakes are frozen when pouring the glaze over the cakes. 
  • Place each cake on a cake board and let the cakes defrost in the fridge.  

Raisin Oatmeal Cookies



Today I am sharing my all-time favorite cookie recipe. I do not think that I have eaten any cookies more often than these raisin oatmeal cookies. I am not fond of chewy chocolate cookies (or maybe I have not eaten any good ones so far) and I prefer crunchy cookies with texture.
I have not created this recipe myself but it is an old family recipe. My mother used to make these raisins cookies, Russinkakor, a lot when I was a child - in particularly during the Christmas season - and they were always my favorite cookies. Oats and raisins are often used in Swedish baking; hartshorn salt or also known as baker's ammonia is used in old Swedish recipe. My cookie recipe contains hartshorn salt as well. Hartshorn salt can be replaced by baking powder. I made this recipe several times with baking powder and too my surprise there is not a huge difference between cookies made with hartshorn salt and baking powder. The raisin oatmeal cookies made with hartshorn salt are a little bit more crunchy.
I do hope you will try out this recipe because these cookies are so scrumptious, so simple and easy to make, and over the years, I gifted quite a few people with these cookies and everyone loves these Swedish Russinkakor.

NOTE:It might be a little bit difficult to get hold of hartshorn salt at your local grocery store (check the baking section) but you can order it online here. In Germany, for example, hartshorn salt is only available during the Christmas season since it is used only for certain German Christmas cookies. I always stock up on hartshorn salt when I am in Sweden because every grocery store carries hartshorn salt. If you have difficulties to get hold of harsthorn salt and want to try the recipe with hartshorn salt, feel free to contact me, and I will send you a sachet of hartshorn salt.
When using hartshorn salt, do not be turned off by the smell because it does not not taste great, especially, when the cookies are in the oven. As soon as the cookies are out of the oven, the smell evaporates.
You can also make these cookies vegan by simply replacing the butter with high quality vegan butter.

Makes 15 to 18 cookies

INGREDIENTS

  • 65 g / 4 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 65 g / 3/4 cup rolled oats, preferable instant oats / quick cooking oats
  • 65/ 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 50 g / 1/3 cup raisins
  • 30 ml / 2 tablespoons water
  • 65 g / 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon hartshorn salt / baker's ammonia or 1 teaspoon baking powder, *see note above

DIRECTIONS

  • Preheat the oven to 175 °C / 350 °F.
  • Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. 
  • Melt the butter in a medium sized saucepan; remove the saucepan from the heat. Add sugar and raisins and mix well. Add the remaining ingredients to the saucepan and stir well. Let the dough rest for a minute.
  • Form little balls (use about 1 teaspoon of the batter), place them on the baking sheets and flatten the balls. Make sure that there is a lot of space between each cookie because the cookies do spread out quite a bit. 
  • Bake the cookies for 12 to 13 minutes or until they are golden in color. When using baking powder the cookies may take a minute or two longer. 
  • Let the cookies cool for a few minutes on the baking sheets, then place the cookies on a wire rack and let them cool completely. 
  • Store the cookies in an airtight container up to three weeks. 

Carrot Cakes

Hello. It has been a long while since I posted here in my little corner online. I do not know where the time has gone. This entire year, I feel I am behind everything. Just recently, I feel I am catching up with everything and I now I want to enjoy the last bits of autumn before winter makes it appearance.
Today I want to share my new favorite carrot cake recipe with you. I cannot tell you how much I like this carrot cake. I have to restrain myself not to make this carrot cake too often, otherwise I end up eating this indulgent cake every day which I did a few weeks ago.
I used to make a carrot cake batter with vegetable oil but I replaced the oil with butter which gives the cake more flavor. I also used to make a cream cheese frosting but I replaced it with a mascarpone frosting which tastes heavenly. My mascarpone cream frosting is cat approved as well. My cat was quite curious while shooting the photos for this recipe. I suddenly found the cat on the table while taking the photos. It took me some time to convince the cat to take a seat on the chair but the cat was interested in the carrot slices on the plate that was on the edge of the table. I could not figure out why the cat was so interested in the carrot slices which were meant for decoration. It took me a few seconds until I realized that there was a little bit of mascarpone cream on one of the carrot slices and this is why the cat was interested in the carrots. For a second, I thought my cat decided to become a vegetarian.
Enjoy the second half of November and I hope you try out this delicious carrot cake recipe.



Makes 9 mini carrot cakes

CARROT CAKES

  • 75 g / 1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons walnuts
  • 145 g / 1 1/2 cups pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 115 g / 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, soft
  • 145 g / 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg (medium sized)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla sugar or vanilla extract
  • 150 g / 2 cups carrots, finely grated
  • 100 g / 6 1/2 tablespoons plain yogurt, full fat
  • Preheat the oven to 150 °C / 300 ° F. 
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Distribute the walnuts on the baking sheet and roast the walnuts for 15 minutes. Let the walnuts cool for a few minutes; chop the walnuts roughly. 
  • Turn the oven to 175 °C / 350 °F. 
  • Grease and flour a muffin tin or line the muffin tin with paper cups.
  • In a small bowl, place flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and walnuts and mix the ingredients well. 
  • In a medium sized bowl, whisk butter and sugar until creamy. Add the egg and vanilla sugar  or extract and mix well. 
  • Add the grated carrots, yogurt and the flour mixture and stir until all ingredients are well combined. 
  • Distribute the cake batter into 9 muffin moulds.
  • Bake the cakes for 20 to 25 minutes. If you insert a toothpick and it comes out clean, the cakes are done. 
  • Let the cakes cool completely. 

FROSTING & ASSEMBLING

  • 125 g / 1/2 cup and 1 tablespoon mascarpone
  • 125 g / 1/2 cup and 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 15 g / 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • Place the mascarpone, heavy cream and powdered sugar in a bowl and whisk until thick and creamy. Be careful, not to overmix the cream, otherwise it becomes too thick. 
  • Place the mascarpone cream into a piping bag with a closed star piping nozzle and pipe the cream onto the middle of each little cake.
  • The cakes taste the best fresh but you can also prepare the cakes a day ahead. Keep the cakes in the fridge until consumption.

"La Pâtisserie des Rêves" & Paris Brest Pastry

There are a lot of clichés about Paris. Some clichés may or may not be true, but there is one thing that one can not argue about and that is French pâtisserie. I have travelled quite a bit but I have never ever found a city that has so many incredible pastry stores than Paris. It makes me dizzy just thinking about all the pastry stores that I have yet to visit but it is the best excuse visiting Paris again and again and again. 
Last spring, I went to the pastry store "La Pâtisserie des Rêves" for the first time. I was really looking forward to visit this particular pâtisserie since I have heard quite a lot about their excellent pastries. "La Pâtisserie des Rêves" was founded by Philippe Conticini and Thierry Teyssier in 2009. The first "La Pâtisserie des Rêves" store was opened on rue du Bac (on the same street, there is the pastry store Angelina which I wrote about here) in the 7th arrondissement but over the past years, new outlets opened in other arrondissements in Paris and Tokyo, Kyoto, Milano and Abu Dhabi as well.
Philippe Conticini is a very well known pâtissier in the culinary world. He worked in Michelin starred restaurants and he invented the principles of the "verrines" in the 1990s which means that a dessert was served in a glass rather than on a plate. "La Pâtisserie des Rêves" focuses on classic French pastries but Philippe Conticini reinterprets the classic French pastries.
Thierry Teyssier developed the concept of the pastry store and it does not surprise that he has a background in theatre. "La Pâtisserie des Rêves" - it literally means the pastry shop of dreams - is a very special pastry shop and certainly not a ordinary shop with a cake counter. There is a carousel display in the center of the pastry shop, on the display there are sleek glass domes and inside the domes cakes are exhibited. It is like a merry-go-round; one walks round in circles while choosing the pastry one wants to buy. It is such a wonderful innovative concept, which I do like a lot. Furthermore, the design of the pâtisserie is modern, very bright and minimalistic at the same time. It does not surprise that the packaging of the cakes is unconventional, too. The cake comes not in a regular box but in a triangle cake box in the vibrant color pink.

After I circled around the carousel display over and over again, I decided to buy a Paris Brest cake which is made of a choux pastry and filled with a praline cream. The Paris Brest cake by the "La Pâtisserie des Rêves" is considered as one of the best in Paris, so as you might imagine my expectations were pretty high. Philippe Conticini describes his Paris Brest creation in the following video here.
By the way, the cake represents a bicycle wheel and it was created in 1910 by the pastry chef Luis Durand who wanted to pay tribute to the bicycle race which took place from Paris to Brest and back to Paris (the race takes place since 1891).

My bill of my Paris Brest
 pastry purchase. 
The praline cream filling of the Paris Brest is a dream. The cream is light, creamy and not too sweet. The praline flavor is strong because there is a pure liquid praline in the centre. The praline cream was definitely the best that I ever had in my life. I could not think of a more superb cream than the one Phillippe Conticini created. 
The choux pastry itself was a little bit disappointing because it was a bit soft and there was no crunch from the streusel top, there was no real texture. It might be my fault because I bought the Paris Brest cake at lunchtime but I did not eat it right away and waited three hours until I consumed the cake. That is probably the reason why the choux pastry became a little bit soft. I wish I ate the Paris Brest right away when I bought it.
Would I visit "La Pâtisserie des Rêves" again? My answer is, absolutely yes. I love the concept of the pastry store and although, I was a little disappointed of the Paris Brest, I would love to try other cake creations by Philippe Conticini. I would also buy the Paris Brest cake again and eat it right away and I am sure that I won't be dissapointed by the choux pastry.
Right around the corner of the "La Pâtisserie des Rêves" on the rue de Bac, there is a little square with a few park benches which is the perfect spot for having a cake break.
Next time - when I am in Paris - you know where you will find me.

Address:
La Pâtisserie des Rêves
93 rue de Bac
75007 Paris
Opening hours:
Monday: closed
Tuesday to Saturday: 9 am to 8 pm
Sunday: 9 am to 6 pm
 The opening hours and addresses of the other outlets of 
"La Pâtisserie des Rêves" check here