Chestnut Chocolate and Hazelnut Cannoli

Yes, it’s this time of the month. And the current Daring Bakers’ challenge is Italian cannoli hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives, who chose the recipe from the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book. The dough recipe was mandatory but the filling options were left entirely up to the bakers.

My filling was a mixture of chestnut puree, fresh ricotta, mascarpone, grated bittersweet chocolate, toasted hazelnuts and a bit of dark rum. This is what I used for stuffing the traditional cannoli shells.

I also fried larger in diameter, cylinder-shaped shells, so I could play a little. Into the bottom of these shells I fitted the circle cut-outs of chocolate-chestnut cake. I topped them with almost the same chestnut filling mentioned earlier, but lightened with some whipped cream to make the consistency more mousse-like. The very last layer was bittersweet chocolate ganache.

Lisa, thank you very much for the delicious challenge! We all (well.., everyone who can eat nuts) loved it!

Happy Holidays!

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Cinnamon Panna Cotta with Spicy Autumn Fruit Compote

The recipe for the cinnamon panna cotta is adapted from Camilla V. Saulsbury’s “Panna Cotta” book which was brought to my attention by a publisher. Despite my skepticism towards the unmolded panna cotta in general, I have to admit that this recipe successfully achieves both – creamy texture and free-standing presentation. I didn’t serve it with a sticky toffee sauce as per author’s suggestion, but with spicy autumn fruit compote to cut down the richness a bit.

The book has a lot of interesting ideas, delicious flavor combinations and not only sweet, but savory as well. Just for the tease in light of the upcoming holidays – Chestnut Caramel, Pumpkin, Molasses, Five-Spice and Honey, Gingerbread Spice, and much more.

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Pumpkin Brandy Mousse Cake with Maple Whipped Cream Topping

I’ve already told you (I’m afraid more than once) about my relationship with pumpkin-based desserts. I like it, but only when the pumpkin is seriously diluted and lightened. This cake belongs to the same category “for pumpkin pie haters”. And this is my family’s favorite autumn cake.

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Mickey Mouse and Birthday Fireworks Cake

I promise the next post will contain a new recipe, something seasonal, perhaps. But now I’ve got only time for a photo series of another decorated birthday cake. I hope you don’t mind. And thank you, all of you, who left such lovely comments on my previous post. I’m very much obliged to each and everyone!

Deep inside of this thing are two chocolate cake and ganache sandwiches (four thin chocolate layers in total) with a crisp hazelnut meringue and Swiss vanilla buttercream between them. Frosting is the same vanilla buttercream.

Meringue is not what I particularly like to put under the fondant. But the client was persuasive. I just kept the cake in the fridge all the time, taking it off for a short period of time to attach the ribbons, bow, and circle cut-outs.

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Frog in a Pond Cake

It’s been awhile since I posted any decorated cakes that I make. So, I decided to share some cake photos with you. This is one of my recent creations.

The baby’s favorite toy is a frog and it determined the theme. All decorative elements are made either from gum paste or fondant. Everything is edible except the wire.

This is a chocolate almond cake filled and frosted with chocolate mousseline with armagnac-soaked prunes folded into the filling portion. Obviously, the cake is intended for parents’ consumption. Poor Nicki will only be allowed to blow the candle – quite a tease for a little guy. Although, I agree that it’s not yet the time to introduce sweets into his diet.

Happy Birthday, Nicki!

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Sun-dried Tomato and Red Onion Bread with Tamari-roasted Sunflower Seeds and Book Review

Recently, a publisher sent me a copy of Andrew Whitley “Bread Matters” book and asked for a review if I find the book interesting enough. Now, let me jump right to the conclusion (I know, it would be more logical to do this in the end, but I’m too excited and therefore impatient). The book is wonderful!

If you are planning to dive into a warmth and comfort of home bread-baking, if you are thinking about buying a serious book to begin, trying to choose the best among dozens, let this book to be the one. You won’t be disappointed. Not only the author possesses amazingly deep knowledge and understanding of the subject, he also writes so clearly and explains so thoroughly. Sourdough and leaven breads finally don’t look scary at all. He offers a different approach to the care of the starter, which doesn’t resemble an infant-care. Health-conscious people will find the book very valuable as the author emphasizes the importance of organic and natural ingredients, and long-fermented, low-yeast breads.

The book is wisely structured and easy to use. First chapters cover equipment, ingredients, applied methods, and troubleshooting. Then, the recipes follow. There are breads, rolls, pastries, and much more, from simple to more complex but still perfectly understandable and doable. How pleasantly surprised I was to find among these recipes traditional and very familiar Russian breads – Borodinsky, Russian Rye, Caraway Rye, as well as kulich and famous pirozhki. These are truly authentic, without any coffee or cocoa powder in the rye bread. Andrew Whitley does know what he is writing about; he lived in Russia himself and wrote warm and kindly about his experience. I personally was very touched reading it.

There’s an interesting “gluten-free baking” chapter where he describes in details and nutritionally analyses flours used in gluten-free baking. The recipes are intriguing – a brown rice sourdough starter is what I’m thinking to try in the near future.

The final chapter “Growing Old Gracefully” is devoted to the utilization of stale bread. I can’t help myself but repeat an old Russian proverb which is an epigraph of this chapter: “When you die, all the bread you ever wasted is weighed. If it is heavier than you, hell is your destination”. My Russian readers would, probably, understand my joy to find here a recipe of kvas which doesn’t call for any commercial yeast but for rye sourdough starter and Borodinsky bread.

I’ve just baked Andrew Whitley’s the Tomato and Red Onion Bread, and its deliciousness certainly proves the author’s geniality. I’m off to start my rye sourdough – I’ll keep you posted.

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