Last week I was on the hunt for a torch. We’re talking a mega torch for singeing things like meringue or warming up the bowl of a mixer to get butter to room temperature faster. I’d say a torch, mixer, whisk, zester and a spatula are the top tools I use in the kitchen. Luckily my lemon tarts have been topped with a mix of whipped cream and lemon curd instead of meringue lately but boy had I been missing one!
I did a bit of research and after visits to Target, Walmart (ugh I hate Walmart), and William Sonoma and lots of blank stares, I had a chat with my chef. Now, I always knew hardware stores were a pastry chefs best friend, and had even called one up but I guess confused the lady too much to get a straight answer but my chef confirmed that they have small butane torches!!!!! For as low as $14! This is the one I got from Home Depot. I’ve been feeling like a major badass using it, so almost every recipe I’ve made since getting it has involved something being torched. tehehe
Which brings me to the desert of this post: Mini Pumpkin S’mores Tarts! A graham cracker crust filled with pumpkin custard then topped with a layer of chocolate ganache and a mile high mound of meringue.
They’re kind of amazing- creamy, marshmallowy, and then a great hit from the chocolate. There are a bunch of steps that go into this dessert, but they’re all not hard and the end result is totally worth it.
I found this recipe over at How Sweet Eats and turned them mini and simplified a couple of the steps. To speed it up a bit, I used mini graham cracker crusts that I found at the store already made. Pretty snazzy, eh? And just under $3 for 6!
Pumpkin S’Mores Tarts
Recipe adapted from How Sweet Eats.
This can be made as one large pie, or 6 small!
My apologies- half of this recipe is in cups, the other half in metric. Mostly because the easiest way for me to do ganache and Italian Meringue is in metric: Ganache is half chocolate, half whipped cream by weight. Italian Meringue: double the weight of the egg whites in sugar plus a little water.
Graham Cracker Crust:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
4 ounces mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
pinch of cloves
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chocolate Ganache (see note above):
100 g chocolate chopped
100 g heavy whipping cream
Italian Meringue Whipped Topping (see note above):
100g egg whites
200g granulated sugar
Let’s get started! If you are not using premade graham cracker crusts, mix together the graham cracker crumbs and melted butter and press into a tart pan with a removable bottom. Chill.
For the custard, whip together the mascarpone and cream cheese in an electric mixer. Add the pumpkin puree and condensed milk. Then add the vanilla and powdered sugar and spices. Pour into the prepared crusts making sure to leave a little room for the ganache. Chill.
Moving on to the Ganache! Place the chopped chocolate in a bowl. Heat the heavy whipping cream until it just starts to boil. Pour over chocolate and let sit for 15 seconds or so for the chocolate to start melting (don’t wait too long, you want the chocolate to still be pretty hot when you pour it over the custard). Using a whisk, make small circular motions around the sides, moving toward the center. The chocolate and cream will magically come together in an awesome mass of chocolaty goodness. Use a spoon or pour the chocolate over the custard. Smooth to the edges. Allow to set in the fridge while you’re making the Italian Meringue.
Time to get your torch ready! :-D In a small saucepan, measure 200g granulated sugar. Add enough water to where the mixture is wet and looks like sand. Stir it around so every sugar granule is wet (about 1/2 cup or so of water). Measure the egg whites into the bowl of an electric mixer and start whipping them to soft peak. Heat the sugar/water mixture to soft ball stage (240F). Take off the heat at 240 and add to the whipped egg whites with the mixer on low. And as my chef says, dump them in, no slow stream is necessary. Just avoid the whisk and bowl as much as you can. Whip on medium-high until the mixing bowl is body temp (barely warm, no longer hot), and the meringue is white and glossy.
Mound the meringue on top of the chocolate, using a spoon to make fun peaks. Torch that sucker! and Enjoy!
- We had the most incredibly awesome storm yesterday. It latest 10 minutes. The winds were horizontal. There was hail. IT. WAS. AWESOME! Except some people’s power has been out for two days now. Texas storms!
– I’m in LOVE with these plates.
– Last week was one of the most stressful weeks in a bit. Three orders! Scones, a Champagne Birthday cake, Brownies, and Lime/Coconut tarts! And all for Thursday and Friday. A Ranger’s Baseball game right after one of the deliveries. Seeing Alex (Paris Alex!) after working at the cheese shop. So good to see her!! Here’s the champagne cake!
– My friends have gotten me into Outlander and I had the theme song stuck in my head for two solid days- “Sing me a song of a lass that was lost…” but that’s all the words I knew. At least, I think those are right?
– I’ve been practicing my French verbs in the car and I think that the audio is so loud that the cars next to me can hear. uh eh ie mange ecoute hehe
– Fall has arrived (sort of). Pumpkin’s are in the shops! Pumpkin lattes are being swigged at every Starbucks in the nation. But the weather just isn’t there yet. It’s a little chillier? But not so much. Can’t wait for boot season!
– Tuesday was my Birthday! The fam celebrated a couple weeks before because my birthday, my mom’s, and my little sister’s all fall within a few days of each other!
I’m super into rosettes on cakes right now.
– Darn Anthropologie and their personal stylists! That’s all I’m going to say. Especially if you’ve seen me the last couple of days. Everything is just so cute- I can’t resist! It’s bad! Bad Molly! Stop!
– I made the cutest little mini cakes with chocolate ganache and nibs on top from some leftover cupcake batter.
– My chef let me pipe the macarons!!!! Pumpkin – all 500 of them! I’ve been working for her for two months now. NO ONE besides her has piped the macarons. Until now…. And today. A batch of Hazelnut and a batch of vanilla. This lady. Right here. Piped them!! And they looked brilliant. :-D
– I found a pic from my Le Cordon Bleu graduation. ah it made me smile seeing these guys!
– Oh and I’ve been eating a lot of cheese because that’s what you do when you work at a cheese shop on the weekends.
What have you been up to?
Hope you have a good weekend!
Even baking and color depend on air and even heat distribution! This leads to this week’s tip!
Place cookies/macarons caddie corner to each other! You’ve put a lot of time into your dessert now let’s get this thing baked! When piping or placing treats on a baking sheet do one row, then on the next, place treats in between two on the first row. You may not fit as many, or! you might actually fit more! But by spreading them out as such you are allowing the air and heat to distribute more evenly.
Bonus tip! Use this method when storing things too to fit even more on your tray, or in a box!
When I packed for France it was a nightmare! With the weight limits and bag limits I repacked a solid 8 times, took over the living room, kept standing on and off the scale, and just about pulled my hair out. I wasn’t sure what to take! After living there for a year I feel like I have a pretty solid understanding especially for an American traveling to France for an extended amount of time. Here is my ultimate packing list with what to bring, what not to bring, and what you might want to throw in a box and ship.
1. Food Products/Cooking Ingredients that are Hard to find in France. Take a good look at what you’re eating now. When you get to France your diet will change drastically and consist mostly of bread, pastries, cheese, butter and wine. Yes wine is a food group. Everything is fresh and the produce is top notch (just try the eggs..), but you might find yourself missing a couple of things. There are a couple expat stores (Thanksgiving, The Real McCoy) but be prepared to pay 10 euros for a small bag of chocolate chips ~crazy!! (do what I did and cut up bars of chocolate instead….) I’ve read a lot of posts that say- Bring Peanut Butter! – but you’ll be able to find it easily in the supermarkets. For me it was Almond Butter, Luna bars, and pumpkin puree that I asked my friends to bring when they visited. Here are a couple other things that are hard to find:
Red Pepper Flakes
Energy Bars (Luna Bars!)
2. Clothing Packing Tips. The Frenchman once told me “You will always look like an American” after I’d told him I was trying to wear more black. And it’s true- it’s not a bad thing but you will probably stand out from the French people around you because of your wardrobe and your facial features. You’ll probably easily trick the tourists though. Within a matter of weeks I was being asked for directions, first by tourists then by Parisians. Here’s a couple tips on what to pack:
– Pack neutrals with pops of color. In the summer/spring it’s common to see a lot of color. I once saw a lady rocking a mustard shirt and red pants~and it was awesome! In the fall/winter, a great black coat and scarves are your friend. The shades change too to more browns, grays, and blacks.
– Make sure all the items you bring can be mix and matched with other items in your wardrobe for all seasons. That cute summer dress could be worn with tights and a sweater in the fall. You’ve got limited suitcase space and it’s possible that you might move more than once while you’re there and moving with a lot of clothes is not fun.
– 2 to 3 good pairs of jeans. Dark colors and a pair of black. All I wore were skinny jeans.
– Shoes: Ballet flats, Boots, Booties, a pair or two of heels, and sturdy sandals for the summer. Don’t pack anything you couldn’t walk around the block in, and don’t spend a lot of time looking at the comfortable, yet really ugly pair of walking shoes (you know what I’m talking about). You probably won’t wear them. Your feet will adjust to all the walking. It also helps to change the types of shoes you’re wearing regularly to give your feet a break. You’ll also notice shoe repair shops are prevalent.
– Raincoat! For the rainy days when you can’t stay inside and an umbrella combined with walking a couple miles will leave you drenched. I also had a small umbrella I’d throw in my purse as I left if there was the slightest hint of rain in the sky. And go for that cute umbrella! You’ll be playing the “rain game” with the other people in the street and might as well have a cute one! :-D
– Don’t bring anything you haven’t worn in awhile or anything that doesn’t fit just right. Laundry in a big city is a hassle and that’s even when you have a washing machine in your apartment. Just about everything is air dried unless you’re going to the laundromat so those skinny jeans won’t stretch back and it becomes necessary to have an iron. Also, laundry day turns into a three day please oh please dry everything is laid out everywhere kind of ordeal when it’s the least bit humid outside.
– Layers, layers, layers!
– The best brands I could say the style was similar to is J.Crew, Banana Republic, MadeWell, and Anthropologie. I usually dressed as if I was going into work in the US which for me is a marketing agency. You’ll also only see people wearing workout clothes when they are working out.
3. Products/Toiletries/Medicine: In France, you’ll have everything you need at the pharmacies in terms of products and toiletries. The hard part comes when you know you need something and you don’t know the name in French! It’s frustrating and not really something you want to be worried about for the first couple of weeks when you’re adjusting. You will see a lot of familiar brands for some things- like lotion (Neutrogena) and contact solution (Opti-Free). Other things though are more difficult. For me it was finding a face wash and a shampoo I liked. Here’s what I would suggest bringing and buying there:
– If you have room in your suitcase, bring larger sizes of shampoo and conditioner. This will buy you a little time to find one at the store that works for you. I brought a full container of the face wash I liked and then replenished my stash when I went home halfway through because I was just not finding one that I liked! You’ll also find that bottle sizes are much smaller than what you find in the US. This mostly has to do with portability- it’s pretty painful to lug a full sized shampoo plus other groceries home, even if it is just walking a couple blocks.
– Appliances- probably best to buy them in France because of the electrical connection. :-D Shop at HEMA for an inexpensive hair dryer and other great home items.
– Nail Polish – oh just because it’s fun and pretty expensive in France.
– General Note- you’ll find some products that you need in the supermarket (shampoo, conditioner, hand soap) but the place to go is the Pharmacy. They’re extremely helpful and it’s a ton of fun! Here’s just one of the many articles you’ll find on the internet about shopping at the pharmacies – City Pharma: A User’s Guide.
– Makeup- Here’s the golden ticket- there’s a Sephora just about everywhere (yay!). So no worries here! If you can get it at Sephora, you’re good! Otherwise, bring a full sized container until you find a good substitute.
– Medicine- Bring what you think you’ll need. It’s a lot easier to sift through some things you’ve brought when you’re not feeling well than try to explain what’s wrong to the pharmacist in a foreign language. For prescriptions, get your US doctor to write down the ingredients and amounts of each in the medicine. If the pharmacist in France can find the exact same medicine, then they will fulfill the prescription (no guarantees though).
– Vitamins are crazy expensive. I take Vitamin D and Magnesium and when refilling it was 28 euros for a bottle of 100… ouch!! As an upside though, prescribed medicines are wayyyy cheaper than what we’re used to in the US (5 euros for antibiotics…?!).
And that’s that! Well at least all I can think of for now. :-D Maybe I’ll be packing for a return visit soon… crisons les doigts.. :-D
What would you add to this list?
I have told you a million times how clueless I am at baking bread- I’ve pleading with Ian from the Baking Chin to move down to Texas and make my bread, especially his Pain de Campagne… But since he’s in Indonesia helping open a Patisserie, I’m stuck with his videos and forced to pester him with questions at every opportunity. Including this week’s tip!
The right way to Store Bread! You’ve gone to all that work to make a homemade loaf of bread and now you want it to stay as amazing as possible, for as long as possible! Here’s what Ian told me- uncut bread can be kept just hanging out on the counter top. It will help keep the crust crunchy! You should have seen his apartment when we were in Paris- the shelves were lined with baked bread. Once you’ve cut into it, DO NOT store it in the refrigerator, this will dry it out, and quickly! If it’s a hard crust, turn the cut side down on a cutting board and keep at room temperature. The crust will help protect the chewy interior. A softer crust, throw it in a bag and keep it out- no refrigeration here!
How long will it keep? Not very long! Around four days is normal for a sandwich bread. So eat it quick (but will that really be a problem?)! Use the stale ends for bread crumbs, croutons, garlic/herb crostini…
I want your baking tips! Have one? Email me, or post it in the comments. I’d love to do a post on it!