Baking With Dorie Greenspan: Cooking and baking in hot weather, ice cream sandwiches, marinated steak and more.

Jul 27, 2016

Beloved cookbook author Dorie Greenspan ("Baking Chez Moi," "Baking: From My Home To Yours," "Around My French Table" and more) answers your questions about baking, her "Everyday Dorie" column and everything else she's cooking.
This week's column: The occasional steak to slice, in 5 easy steps
This week's recipe: Dorie Greenspan’s Marinated and Seared Steak

Greetings from hot here to hot there - what a week!

Despite the heat, I've been cooking AND baking.  As my husband says, "It's what I do." 

And you?

Have you changed your cooking because of the weather?  Please don't tell me you've stopped!

What have you been up to?

I have a favorite Peach Custard Pie recipe. For some reason the last few times I have made it, I cannot get the custard to set no matter how long I cook it. It's just eggs, flour, sugar, and melted butter. I've had the same problem in two different ovens. Any idea what I could be doing wrong? Thanks for taking my question!

I think I've mentioned this before, but when things that used to work and then don't (as happens more often than it should),  I think of the wonderful cookbook author,  Maida Heatter, who wrote about how her favorite lemon cake just stopped coming out the way it used to.  She tried it again and again and, in the end, gave up and attributed the problem to the presence of kitchen witches!

Your custard might be a kitchen-witch problem.  But I wonder if it mightn't also have something to do with the peaches?  Is it possible that the peaches were so juicy that they diluted the custard to the point where it couldn't set?

I'm giving the witches the odds on this one.

Hi Dorie! I recently made a 4-layer hazelnut dacquoise cake with whipped cream and ganache between the layers (for those who are interested, it's on Smitten Kitchen). It got absolutely RAVE reviews from my family and I think I'm going to have to make it many times again in the future. The recipe called for a very simple whipped cream "icing", which proved difficult to make look clean and polished. I found the dacquoise layers inevitably got a little thinner at the edges, so the gaps between the layers at the edges had to be filled with a significant amount of whipped cream before finishing the frosting. I know with layer cakes you can trim down to flat layers for the clean look (which is also hard for me by the way!) but what about with this type of concoction? How do you make sure your dacquoises or meringues are flat? Any tips for making it look as beautiful as it tasted?

I love dacquoise so much that I think they're beautiful even when they're not completely perfect, but there are a couple of things you can do to even the layers.

If you end up with dacquoise 'bulges', you can 'erase' and smooth them using a Microplane as a rasp.  Work carefully and you'll be able to sculpt the layers.

Take a look at your layers before you bake them. You should be able to see if the edges are thinner than the centers and fix them at this point.

 

I'm baking the fluffy yellow layer cake from season 9 of America's Test Kitchen (Everyone's Favorite Cake). It says to use 2 9" round by 2"deep pans. I only have 2 8x1.5 round pan. Do I need to buy the bigger pans, or will I be fine?

You don't have to buy bigger pans, but you shouldn't be using all of the batter. Here's a great resource for figuring out pan sizes and substitutions.

 

Dorie, Have you ever had European style thick drinking chocolate, and any idea how I could produce this in my kitchen? The kind I like (and have found in select few American places) is served in a small cup, and is bittersweet with a rich consistency that is like a cross between hot chocolate and chocolate ganache. Do you know of any places in the DC area to get this?

You're absolutely right that European style drinking chocolate is a cross between hot chocolate and ganache.  I have it often in Paris - the most famous hot-chocolate place in Paris is Angelina's and the chocolate there is outstanding.

Here's a recipe that I think will give you what you're looking for.  A couple of things:  I use whole milk, but you could substitute heavy cream for all or part of the milk.  Also, if you're going to use milk chocolate (doesn't sound like you will, but just in case), make sure it's very high quality, European or European style.

The recipe comes from my book, Baking Chez Moi:

2 cups (480 ml) whole milk

1/3 cup (80 ml) water

2 - 5 tablespoons sugar, to taste

Pinch of fleur de sel or fine sea salt

4 ounces (113 grams) bittersweet, semisweet of very best-quality milk chocolate, melted and still warm

Bring the milk, water, sugar and salt to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Stir to be certain that the sugar is dissolved.  Remove the pan from the heat and scrape in the melted chocolate.

Set the pan over medium heat and, whisking all the while, cook to blend the chocolate into the milk.  Stop when you see bubbles rising to the surface.

Pour the chocolate into a heatproof pitcher and whir for 1 minute with an immersion blender (or use a stand blender).  Serve immediately.

I don't know DC, but Becky Krystal, WaPo's sweet tooth, suggests that when it gets cooler, you might want to try Pitango, Sweet Lobby or Co Co Sala for hot chocolate.

Hi, Dorie! I thought that I was cream puffed out, but I was wrong. I'm planning a cook-in at the end of the summer because I don't have a grill to do a cook-out. So, an indoor picnic it is. If I reprise the cream puffs, I'd like to mix them up. What would you think about mixing a berry puree into the pastry cream and whipped cream, or maybe replacing the pastry cream with lemon curd and mixing that with whipped cream? How can I make the puffs even more fun and summery? Thanks as always

It's impossible to be cream-puffed out!

I love indoor picnics (in fact, I wrote about that in this week's Everyday Dorie column!) and I  think that reprising cream puffs is a great idea.

You could easily mix berry puree into pastry cream, just make sure that the puree is thick - you don't want to thin the pastry cream too much.  I've often filled puffs with lemon curd lightened with whipped cream, as you mentioned, or - and this is fun - put lemon curd in the bottom of the puff and then topped it with swirls of whipped cream before putting on the 'cap'.

If you really wanted to gild the puff, you could add some fresh berries to the cream at the last minute.

Have fun!

I regularly make challah and more often than not, the strands stretch during baking. The end result is white areas in the center of the braid, while the rest is shiny brown from the egg wash. What are your sure-fire tips for preventing this? Thank you!

Oh, if only I had sure fire tips.  I really don't know any way to avoid this because the stretch is natural and, in fact, you want the strands to stretch.  

Hmmm, I've never thought of this whiteness as a problem (I kind of like that, but that's beside the point), but I wonder if you could re-wash the white parts mid-bake and if that would help get the color you want?  I've never tried it, but I think it could work.

If you try, please come back and let us know what happened.

I'm inspired by the Great British Baking Show to try a frangipane-like tart this weekend. Some recipes say you can use other nuts in the typically-almond base. Since I have a bag sitting in my cabinet, what do you think about working with pistachios, and what fruit would go well with? Also, I just got your Baking Chez Moi book for my birthday and can't wait to use it, so please let me know if there's any recipe in there that you especially recommend to satisfy my nuts+summer fruit+tart craving! There look to be quite a few!

Yes, yes, use your pistachios to make the frangipane - it will be delicious and also beautiful!  Pistachios are wonderful with berries, particularly raspberries, and fabulous with apricots, peaches and nectarines.  Also, now that you've got Baking Chez Moi, take a look at the berry gratins - fresh berries + pistachio cream (aka pistachio frangipane). 

I'm more surprised that it ever worked than that it isn't working now. I thought starch-based custard (the recipe has flour in it) had to be set on the stove, not in the oven. They require too high a heat.

Peach-pier - did you do anything to the flour before adding it to the pie?

The custard mixture that I usually use with fruit tarts is made of cream, sugar, egg and yolk.

I often read about making shallow cuts across flank steak before marinating and grilling.  Maybe you don't recommend it or it is not necessary particularly when marinating over night.  Any thoughts?

You could certainly slash the steak, but the marinade seemed to flavor the steak without slashes.

Is there a stove/oven that you recommend for the average home? Or do you think the type of oven matters that much?

I don't have a particular stove to recommend, but I do know that stoves matter.  These days, I have ranges that have gas stovetops and electric ovens and I'm loving the ovens.  The important thing with ovens is good insulation and accurate and even heat.  

I've had inexpensive ovens, very old ovens and shiny new ovens that cost more than I ever thought an oven could cost, and price wasn't the guarantee of quality.

I wish I could be more helpful.  If you're buying an oven or stove that 's sold in a showroom where you can test-drive, do!  Bring something to bake and something to saute.

I'm making sushi for dinner tonight! I do refuse to turn the oven on during these really hot days. The exception is for my weekly bread baking, which I try to do as early in the morning as possible, when it's only in the 80s :)

Sushi's a great idea!

The other day, I made a kind of sushi but instead of rice, I put the fish on slices of tomato, beets and plums.

A bit of a diversion but I know you spend a lot of time in Paris. How are you and your Parisian friends feeling about the situation? I hope everybody is staying strong and tourism is not too adversely affected.

It is a diversion, but it's a subject I think of daily. Just as we Americans kept going after 9/11, the French keep going and yes, they're staying strong.  I've been told that tourism started to pick up again and I was glad.  France is a fascinating country and it would be sad if those who want to enjoy it didn't visit.

You used to have a pop-up market at the Essex Street Market in NYC (where I saw you once a couple years ago). Do you have any other plans for similar pop-ups (perhaps Union Market in DC, hint, hint)?

Yes, you're right, our son, Joshua, and I had a cookie shop in the Essex Street Market called Beurre & Sel.  I've got no plans for 'popping up' again, but all of my Beurre & Sel recipes are in my new book, Dorie's Cookies, so even if I don't pop up, you can bake them yourself!

I'm not sure it's them yet, but since moving to a medium altitude I have been having problems with my creme brûlée. The first time they didn't really come close to setting. This time I upped the temp 25 degrees (does that make much difference with a water bath?) cooked an extra 20 or so minutes, and got them mostly set. But, a few bites were eggy. Evidence of overdone was or something else?

Does anybody have experience with altitude baking?  Sadly, I don't know about it.

I do know a little about baking temperatures and yes, 25 degrees can make a difference over time.

 

Dorie, I'm a little squeamish about eggs, but I cook with then when they'll be fully cooked. My issue is in mousses, puddings, and custards when the recipe usually says "add the egg yolk to hot cream, cook on low heat for 5 minutes, then remove from heat cool and chill". This seems like... not really cooking it. Can i substitute cornstarch or very soft silken tofu if the purpose is to thicken?

Is there a silken-tofu user out there with an idea about whether it would be a good thickener for mousse?

Egg yolks do help to thicken mousse, but they also add richness, something you won't get from cornstarch.  

I think the yolk should be fine after 5 minutes, but if you're uncomfortable, why don't you make a delicious chocolate pudding? Pudding, like pastry cream, needs to come to a boil, so you can be certain that the dessert you're serving is cooked through.

 

My mother used to make a pie similar to this.  Nostalgic as it makes me for the '70s in all their glory, I'd like to make something that doesn't involve Cool Whip (among other things). Looking for a relatively easy, summery dessert for a party of 6. We don't have an ice cream maker, but our kitchen is otherwise reasonably equipped and I am reasonably skilled and comfortable in the kitchen. A basic mousse pie or individual mousse dishes would be great (no muss and fuss to serve) but I have an open mind. Thanks.

Dare I suggest that you could make Mom's dessert with real whipped cream?

Looking at the dessert made me think of the Milk Chocolate Mocha-misu, a play on tiramisu that might be just perfect for your party.

Dorie Greenspan's Milk Chocolate-Mochamisu Pie

RECIPE: Dorie Greenspan's Milk Chocolate-Mochamisu Pie

Also, how about the Tropical Ice Cream Cake?

Tropical Ice Cream Cake

RECIPE: Tropical Ice Cream Cake

Both desserts are do-ahead and fun for summer.

My grandmother, who baked challah every single week into her 70s, showed me that trick. It worked for her, then for me and my sisters, and it will work for you. Just don't slop the re-wash too far outside the developing channels between the braids.

Thanks so much for this. Glad to know the trick is grandmother approved - the best seal of approval ever!

Could you egg-wash the strands before you braid them? I've never made challah, so this is just a stab in the dark. Sort of yarn-dyeing rather than garment-dyeing, but with bread.

Fun idea and I like your analogy, but I have a feeling it would be messy.

Our only "cooking" (in the sense of using a heat source) is boiling water for morning tea, and making toast (with storebought bread) for breakfast. Otherwise, all the food we're eating is unheated. We'll resume a bit of cooking once the heatwave breaks. But meanwhile, there's wonderful raw produce from our garden and the farmers' market, cheeses, bakery breads, ice cream etc.

Actually, you're describing a way of eating that I love even when we're not in the middle of a heat wave. Room temperature is my my favorite temperature for many foods.

It sounds as though you're eating very well. Bon appétit!

I want to make some ice cream sandwiches. Can you recommend any cookie recipes you think would work well? Any flavor combinations you think would work well? I'd like to go beyond chocolate chip cookie/vanilla ice cream. Thanks!

How about make pizelles or even waffles for the sandwiches.  (I wish my new book were already out - I've got some great ice cream sandwich recipes - aarrgh!)  I've made small chocolate waffles - just put a little batter in the center of the waffler, don't fill the grids - and then let them dry overnight at room temp so they're crisp for sandwiching.  You can also dry them in a 200 degree F oven.

There are always oatmeal cookies and peanut butter cookies to consider, but what could be better than a thinnish ginger cookie and either coffee or  chocolate ice cream?

Let us know what you end up doing.

I don't care if it is 100 degrees out, I'm cranking up the AC and trying the recipe tonight. I did have a cream-related question, though. Until a recent move, I've always been able to get decent (high fat, no stabilizers) heavy cream in the supermarket. Here's it's all "whipping cream" with additives like diglycerides and carrageenan. Is it worth heading over to Whole Foods or equivalent (about 30 minutes away) for my heavy cream, at least for special occasions?

It's always better to have pure heavy cream, but like you, I'm finding it harder to find in local (convenient) supermarkets. I think this must be the situation everywhere these days.  I use the 'regular' cream and there's never a problem with recipes, but I'm always happy when I find good cream.  I'd buy it when you see it.

 

 

I do more overnight bread. Mix and raise and shape, refrigerate overnight, pull it out when I get up and bake before I leave for work. The good smell gets some of the rest of the household out of bed, a lovely bonus.

So nice!

My husband is a bread baker and it's always nicest - for me! - when he gets up super-early and the house smells like bread and coffee.  Those are the mornings when I feel like a princess!

You're doing something lovely for your family.

Hi, On a recent episode of the Great British Baking Show, the contestants wrapped what seemed to be a thin sponge cake around ice cream. Some piped colored designs into the flat rimmed pan before adding the batter; these then appeared baked into the finished cakes. There was no explanation of what the colored concoction was--tinted batter? Or something else? It looks like an interesting thing to try, so any advice would be appreciated! Thanks!

I haven't seen the episode - does anyone know what was used?

I know that there are cake stencils that you can buy which will give you designs. Wasn't this, right?

Somebody know?

I'll check this out and if I figure it out or find out, I'll tell you next time.

Check your oven temp. I bet it's way off.

Funny - oven temp is always the first thing I think of as the culprit, but this time the word 'altitude' got to me.

Thanks.  Med-altitude baker, check your oven temperature :)

A few options: Pasteurized eggs, either in shells or boxes Temp your mousse etc. can't remember precisely what temp you are going for, 165 F is absolutely the highest you would need, but it might be lower

Thanks for chiming in.

I haven't had time to check, but I think the temp is lower, more like 145, but it's certainly searchable.

 

Not mentioned in the episode, but yes, tinted batter is the norm. Natural or artificial depending on the color needed etc.

Thank you!

I spent some time researching this during the winter because I love European-style hot chocolate too. Pitango is an excellent choice (you can get it in a bottle to go as well) - should fit your bill. Sweet Lobby doesn't have anywhere to sit down, so it won't be easy to relax and enjoy it. Good luck!

I've experienced the same problem. I have taken the loaf out midway during baking and re-egg-washed it. It won't make it perfect, but it gets much closer. I've actually started doing this for all of my egg washed bread recipes in order to make the bread look a bit nicer. Here's how mine looked afterwards. You could also do a wash beforehand with a full egg (diluted with water) and then just do a yolk wash (diluted with water) of the white parts partway through. Pure yolk will brown more, so it may even out better.

It's not precisely European-style, but try Harper Macaw for your hot chocolate. They make their own chocolate in DC and the hot chocolate is delicious and rich!

Thanks for this suggestion

Would you at some time, perhaps later into the Fall or even Winter, talk about steamed puddings? I have been served a delicious pudding with jam at the bottom, which ended up at the top after unmolding, but do not understand the ins and outs of steamed puddings. Thanks.

Remind me when winter rolls around - steamed puddings are fun

Thanks to everyone for being here and extra thanks to those of you who chimed in to help other chatters. What's better than a community of people who love food, cooking and baking? Nothing.

I'll be back here August 10 at 1 pm Eastern. Hope you will too.

In the meantime, cook, bake, share and enjoy - xoDorie

In This Chat
Dorie Greenspan
Dorie Greenspan is the award-winning author of 11 cookbooks, the most recent of which is "Baking Chez Moi." Read more on her Web site, doriegreenspan.com, and follow her on Twitter: @doriegreenspan.
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