Category Archives: Sweets



For the month of December’s Daring Baker’s Challenge, Kat challenged us to make Gateaux Pithiviers.

Pithiviers are essentially a cake-sized pastry stuffed with an almond filling. A charm, or feve, is sometimes baked into the dessert, and whoever is served that piece is “King for the Day”. The dessert is named for the town of Pithiviers south of Paris. Gateaux Pithiviers, also called Galette des Rois or King’s Cakes, are traditionally eaten at Lent.

The two elements comprising the Pithiviers both benefit from overnight chilling. Therefore, this dessert is excellent for preparing a day or two before serving, and then assembling and baking the day you want to serve it. The puff pastry recipe I’ve included makes three pounds, but only one pound is needed for the Pithiviers.


The dessert is ancient, with many recipes floating around. Kat first came across Gateaux Pithiviers in John Clancy’s Christmas Book. She experimented with techniques and filling recipes from David Lebovitz and Le Cordon Bleu at Home. The recipe here is her own creation based on her experiments and ingredients at hand.


It was mandatory to make the Puff Pastry and Frangipane from scratch and then further assemble into “Gateaux Pithiviers”

Gateaux Pithiviers – Daring Baker’s December 2015 Challenge


  • Puff Pastry
  • Makes three pounds / 1.35kg , only one of which will be used
  • Preparation time: 10 minutes
  • Ingredients
  • 4 1?2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 sticks salted butter
  • 1 cup ice water
  • Frangipane
  • Makes enough for one Gateaux Pithiviers
  • Preparation time: 10 minutes
  • Ingredients:
  • 1 1?2 cups blanched almonds (or 1 cup almond meal from a packet)
  • 1/3 - 1/2 cup granulated sugar, depending on sweetness level you prefer
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1?2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1?4 teaspoon almond extract
  • zest from one lemon or 1?2 an orange or 2 tangerines (tangerine is my favorite)
  • 2 Tablespoons Armangac or Rum (rum is traditional, but I like the Armagnac much better)
  • Gateaux Pithiviers
  • 1 pound puff pastry (1/3rd of a batch if using the accompanying recipe)
  • 1 batch of frangipane
  • 1 large egg
  • granulated, superfine, or powdered sugar (optional)


Put 1?2 cup of flour in a medium bowl or in the work bowl of a food processor. Cut one pound of butter into small cubes and thoroughly combine with the flour without letting the mixture warm up. If it starts to warm up at all, just toss it into the freezer or refrigerator for a few minutes until it’s cold again. Dump the mixture onto a piece of parchment paper and shape into a rectangle about 4 x 8” / 10 x 20cm wide. Wrap well and place in refrigerator to chill.

Using the same mixing or processor bowl, combine the remaining four cups flour and 1?4 pound of butter until well combined. Again, do not let the mixture warm up. Place your bowl in the fridge anytime the butter starts to feel soft. After combining, add the ice water slowly, and stir until mixed. Dump the mixture onto a clean and lightly floured counter and knead until the dough is smooth, approximately three or four minutes. Wrap well and place in refrigerator to chill for at least 15 minutes.

Remove dough from refrigerator and roll into an approximate 10” / 20cm square. Remove butter mixture from refrigerator and place on top of dough. Fold top third of dough down over the butter, and then fold bottom third of dough up to form a packet.

Roll the rectangle back out to the original dimensions, trying to avoid having any of the butter creep out the edges. If the dough is feeling warm, return to the fridge for a few minutes to firm up. Fold the dough into thirds again, and roll in a perpendicular direction to your first fold. That

??????is, your open ends become your new edges, and your old edges become your new open ends. Fold into thirds once more, wrap well, and chill for at least 1?2 hour. You’ve completed your first two turns.

Remove the puff pastry from the fridge, roll out, fold up, roll out, and fold up. Remember, anytime you think things are warming up, you’re butter is seeping out, or you’re getting otherwise frustrated, just throw the whole thing in the fridge and walk away for ten minutes. You’ve now completed four turns. Wrap up well and chill again. Indentations in the dough can help you keep track of the number of turns you have made.

Repeat the previous instructions to complete six turns in total. You now have a gorgeous slab of puff pastry. Wrapped up well, it will store in the refrigerator for up to three days or in the freezer for several months.

Frangipane Method:

Toast almonds on a cookie sheet under a broiler (oven grill). Using a grinder or food processor, process the almonds until finely ground. Combine with all the other ingredients until well mixed. Form into a 6” / 15cm disc, wrap well, and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Gateaux Pithiviers

Beat the egg well to make an egg-wash. Add up to one teaspoon of water, if necessary, to loosen the mixture up. Divide the pound of puff pastry in half, and return one half to refrigerator. Roll out the remaining half on a lightly floured surface. Using a plate or bowl approximately 8” / 20cm in diameter and a very sharp knife, cut out a circle of puff pastry. Carefully move the pastry to a silicon mat or parchment-lined baking sheet.

Brush a ring of egg-wash around the outside of the pastry, but do not allow the egg-wash to go over the sides, as that will prevent the edges from rising prettily. Center the disk of frangipane on the pastry and place the baking sheet in the fridge to keep cool.

Roll out the second half of the puff pastry and cut a circle the same size as the bottom. Retrieve the Pithiviers from the refrigerator and place the top layer of puff pastry overtop. Quickly use your fingers to mush the two layers of pastry together without warming the pastry or allowing the filling to squeeze out.

Press two fingers of one hand into the pastry and use the back of a small knife to push an indent in between your fingers. Repeat all the way around the Pithiviers. This will form the scalloped edges Pithiviers are known for.

Brush entire top with egg-wash, again trying your best to not let the egg run over the edges. Starting at the middle of the pastry, draw long sweeping s-curves out to the edges. When you’re satisfied with your work, return to the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 425°F.

Bake the Pithiviers for 10 minutes at 425°F, and then reduce the heat to 350°F and bake for another 20-30 minutes. The top should be a dark bronze color, and the filling (which you won’t be able to see) should be set. At this point, you can sprinkle sugar over the top and return to the oven at 500°F for a few minutes to develop a beautiful glaze. I burned it every time, so I just skip this step now.

Allow the Gateaux Pithiviers to cool completely before serving.

The taste is a little nicer when it’s warm, but the texture is better when it’s a room temperature. This can sit on the counter for a day, but longer storage is attainable using your refrigerator.

Thanks Kat for a great Challenge!



For the month of October we got to take on one of many bakers’ deepest, darkest kitchen nightmares : macarons. Our talented bakers Korena from Korena in the Kitchen and Rachael from pizzarossa made the intimidating task of mastering these French beauties a breeze.

If anyone had ever asked me what is the one thing that I cannot bake? My immediate answer would have been Macarons for a very long time. Few months back I attended a workshop on Macarons by chef Michael Solovay. I finally learnt all the tricks and techniques, mastered the art of Macaron making:).
For this month’s Daring Baker’s challenge, it was mandatory to bake French macarons shells using either the French meringue or Italian meringue method, along with a filling of our choice.

I was happy to make some for this month’s Daring Baker’s Challenge. I am adding all the notes from Korena and Rachael here. The original recipes for both macaron methods are in grams. Because macarons rely on specific ratios of almonds to powdered sugar to meringue, we recommend using weight rather than volume measurements, which are much less accurate. (Korena says: About those oddly specific amounts in the French meringue recipe – I tried rounding them to more regular numbers, and the macarons failed. An extra gram or two does make a difference!).
Many sources recommend aging your egg whites when making macarons, but neither of them have ever found it necessary for either method. The only stipulation is that the egg whites should be at room temperature (this helps them whip to maximum volume).

Regarding almonds – you can use ground almonds with or without the skins on, but they both preferred using clear ground almonds (no skins) for the look. If you can’t buy ground almonds locally, you can grind them yourself. Just don’t use an almond flour which is very fine and powdery – ground almonds are gritty when rubbed between your fingers. You will grind them further with the powdered sugar. Almonds can be substituted for other nuts or seeds, however their oil content can change the way the batter behaves, so it’s probably best to use almonds on your first try, and then play around once you’re confident in your macaron skills.

Some thoughts on food coloring – Whether you use it or not is entirely up to you, but if you do use it, what you use will determine how much you use and the method you use will determine when you add it. You should only use gel or powder – avoid liquid food coloring, as it can add too much moisture to the mix. With the Italian meringue method, Rachael prefers to add coloring or flavoring at the almond paste stage. This is mostly because it is easier to see the difference in color when folding in the meringue. You can add it to the meringue, though, as you prefer. For the French meringue method, gel color can be added to the meringue OR when folding in the almond mixture, whereas powdered color can be added to the ground almond mixture. Both recipes include instructions on when to add color. Remember, though, that after you add coloring to one part, you will dilute the color when combining the two parts. Flavorings such as vanilla bean seeds can also be added at these same stages.

Baking the macaron shells: Though you can use a parchment paper, my personal choice is a silicon mat. Try both and see what works best for you. And speaking of baking sheets, some bakers use a double or triple stack of baking sheets to help insulate the macaron shells as they bake. This might be a useful technique if your oven runs hot or heats unevenly.

Rachael says: I would like to clear up the misconception floating around the interwebbies that macarons made with the Italian meringue method aren’t “real French macarons” (yes, I have been told this on social media). In fact, neither method is more “French” than the other, they are just variations on a theme. Just like Ladurée and Pierre Hermé, I use this method because I find that it gives more consistent and reliable results. So go ahead and use whichever method suits you best!
Korena says: Egg whites and meringues can be temperamental – if there is even a trace of oil, fat, or egg yolk in the bowl or on the beater, it can prevent the egg whites from whipping to a stiff peaks. For this reason, when separating your eggs, be very careful not to get any yolks in with the whites. One trick I always use to ensure meringue success is to wipe my already-clean bowl and beater or whisk with a vinegar-moistened paper towel: this eliminates any grease, and the little bit of acid helps the egg whites turn into a meringue more readily.

Macaron shells - French meringue method

Serving Size: 25-30 x 3.5cm / 1 1/3” filled macarons


  • 112g / 4 oz ground almonds
  • 204g / 7 oz powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
  • 102g / 3.5 oz egg whites (from approx. 3 eggs)
  • 51g / 1.75 oz granulated (white) sugar
  • Optional:
  • Replace 20g / .7 oz of the powdered sugar with unsweetened cocoa powder
  • The seeds of 1 vanilla bean
  • A few drops of non-oil-based essence
  • A few drops of gel food coloring or a pinch of powder food coloring


Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper on top of the piping guide, and set aside.In the bowl of a food processor, combine the ground almonds and powdered sugar, and pulse until completely combined and homogeneous. If you are using powdered food coloring, combine it with the almond mixture.Sift the mixture onto a bowl, then return any large bits left in the sifter to the food processor and pulse again until very fine. Set aside.

Place the egg whites in a scrupulously clean (free of any oil or egg yolks) large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer. Whisk on medium speed until frothy, then very gradually add in the granulated sugar. Once all the sugar is added, increase the sped to medium-high and continue beating the egg whites until they form a stiff-peaked meringue (the peaks should not flop over). Don’t over mix or allow the meringue to become dry or chunky. Before the meringue reaches stiff peaks, you can mix in a few drops of paste food coloring or some vanilla bean seeds.

Add half the almond mixture to the meringue and fold vigorously with a spatula, using about 15 strokes to combine and break down the meringue so it is not so puffy (you can also add paste food coloring here if you haven’t already added it to the meringue. At this stage, I added the seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean). Make sure you scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl as you fold so that the dry ingredients are all incorporated.

Add half the remaining almond mixture and fold again with about 10-15 strokes, until just combined. Add the remaining almond mixture and fold again, 10-15 strokes, until just combined. The mixture should fall from the spatula in long, thick ribbons, like slow-flowing lava, and the surface of the mixture should smooth out within 30 seconds.

Scoop the mixture into a large piping bag (only use half the mixture at a time) fitted with a large round tip or plain coupler, and pipe into the prepared baking sheets, using the piping template as a guide. Pipe straight down so that mixture comes out in a round blob – it will smooth and spread out on its own. I usually get one full pan of 28 circles and a second with about 20.

Lift the baking sheet up about 5cm / 2 inches and keeping it perfectly level, firmly bang it down on your work surface to dislodge any large air bubbles. Set the piped shells aside to dry for 30-60 minutes, until a skin has formed on the surface and they are no longer sticky to the touch.

Preheat the oven to 275?F. Bake the shells, one baking sheet at a time, in the top third of the oven for 12-16 minutes, during which time they should sprout feet (if you used cocoa in the shells, they may need an additional 2 minutes of baking time). To test the shells, gently tug on the top – if they jiggle at all, bake for another 1-2 minutes. Once baked, they should peel cleanly off the parchment paper. I get best results when I bake them for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheet and bake for another 2-6 minutes, checking for doneness every 2 minutes. I also find that my first batch always takes a few minutes longer than the second, for whatever reason!Allow the shells to cool completely on the parchment paper, then peel off and store in an airtight container, layered between wax paper, at room temperature or in the freezer (NOT the fridge) until you are ready to fill them. Once filled, they should still be kept in an airtight container and can be refrigerated or kept somewhere cool. It’s best to let the filled macarons mature for at least 1 day before eating.

According to a “perfect macaron” article that Rachael read, the ideal ratio of shell to filling is 2:1. That is, the filling should be about the same thickness as one shell. That’s pretty much the ratio we go with, and the easiest way to achieve that is to go by how much is in the piping bag. Fill the bag twice for piping the shells, so fill it once for piping the filling.

Thanks Korena and Rachael for the great challenge!




Chutney 1
Strawberry Picking is like a family ritual for us. Its a great time of the year to enjoy the dazzling red berries which are ripened to perfection in the farm fields. We had some relatives home and I decided to take them last week for this fun experience. We picked berries to our hearts content and paid about $1.72 per lb, which I though was reasonable. The whole activity is so addictive that you don’t feel like stopping. We didn’t even realize that we picked over 10 lbs in less than 30 minutes.
Its a great experience and I highly recommend everyone to try especially with kids. Always make sure to call up the farm before heading there. Also pick up only the red berries, the green or pink wont ripe later. Don’t miss out on your camera!
chutney 2
With so many berries I really had to come up with something quick. I was expecting to freeze some but not the entire lot. I made some Low Fat Strawberry Crisp ; strawberry infused water and some Spiced Chutney. My original idea was to actually make some jam but there was already a big bottle of Smuckers starring at me in the refrigerator:(. I wanted some thing Tangy and Sweet so decided to make Chutney, that too a spicy one. I used chili powder which gave the much required heat, jaggery added to the sweetness, nutmeg and cardamom for flavors and lemon juice gave the tartness.
chutney 3
Before starting, taste a berry to determine their sweetness. Wash the berries and cut them into quarters; mix powdered jaggery and lemon juice. Since I wanted the natural sweetness of the berries to set in I decided to keep it covered for about 40 minutes or so. But in between I had to step out so the 40 mins became 90 minutes. The Berries had released all their juices and along with the jaggery water I was left with a lot of liquid. Now the only problem was that it would take more time to cook.Towards the end it might stick to the pan so be careful.

Spiced Strawberry Chutney


  • 6 cups strawberries, washed and quartered
  • 1 cup jaggery
  • 2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon chili powder ( increase or decrease as per taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder
  • salt as needed


Take the chopped berries in a large bowl, add powdered Jaggery and lemon juice. Mix well and allow it to rest for about 30-45 minutes.

Heat oil in a pan, add cumin seeds. When it turns golden add the Berries along with the juice. Add the remaining ingredients and cook on low heat until it turns thick. Keep stirring in between.

Once done allow it to come to room temperature before you fill it in a bottle. Keep it refrigerated. I started with six cups of berries but still ended up with just a medium mason jar full of chutney.This tasted great with some crackers and cheese, bread, tortillas/rotis. I liked them even on Pancakes:)



bread 2
For the month of May, Aparna chose an easy bread which is loaded with flavors – An Orange and Cinnamon Swirl Bread. This bread was originally adapted from 500 Breads by Carol Beckerman.
bread 3
It’s an easy bread to knead,shape and bake.This Bread is a typical American style sweet breakfast bread.
We enjoyed this bread for breakfast as well as evening snack. Apricot, Orange and Cinnamon put together makes a flavorsome bread!

Orange & Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Yield: 2 loaves


  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2/3 cup warm water
  • 2 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • The juice and finely grated zest of 1 orange
  • 5 tablespoon apricot preserves
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • Oil for greasing


Grease two 8”x 4” loaf tins with a little oil. Dissolve 1 teaspoon sugar in the warm water and sprinkle the yeast on top. Leave it for 10 to 15 minutes till frothy.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt and the 3 tablespoon sugar. Add the liquid yeast, the eggs, the juice and the zest of orange and work into a somewhat firm dough.

Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a large oiled bowl, and turn so it is coated all over. Cover and put it in a warm place for about 1 1 /2 hours, until doubled in size.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and punch down. Knead for a few minutes until the dough feels firm. Roll into to 6 x 13-inch rectangles.

Spread each rectangle with apricot preserves and sprinkle with cinnamon and brown sugar. Roll up each triangle like a jelly roll and place in the loaf tins. Put in a warm place for about 30 minutes, until double in size.

Pre-heat the oven to 400 F and bake the loaves for about 30 to 35 minutes until the top is golden brown and the bottom of the loaves make a hollow sound when tapped. Cool on a wire rack. This recipe makes 2 medium sized loaves.

Thanks Aparna for the recipe!


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