Fruit and nut levain, Paris-Brest and Florentina surprise
I loved the deep wheaty taste of the whole-wheat levain that I posted about last time, and I feel the preferment itself (a wet whole-wheat preferment) added a tangy, earthy flavour to the loaf. It'll be interesting to experiment with different flours in future preferments, as it could be an easy way to "extract" more of the flavour and aroma characteristics of the flour that is used.
I baked another whole-wheat levain yesterday, but added toasted nuts and rum soaked prunes. For the loaf below, I used pine nuts and sunflower seeds, and let the toasted nuts soak in dark rum together with prunes overnight. I think this gave the nuts a soft, almost buttery mouthfeel. Other than that, the whole-wheat levain formula from "Bread" was followed, with a final proof in the fridge overnight. Here's the loaf:
The toasted nuts and sweetness from the prunes go very well with the slightly bitter flavour of whole-wheat. The combined weight of nuts and prunes is about 30% of the total flour weight.
OK, I know you're thinking that Tour de France is over and all that (so what if I'm not a sports freak??), but that didn't prevent me from making some Paris-Brest pastries over the weekend! I've made these once before, and I've had a craving for more ever since... Below is a photo of the unbaked (left) and baked (right) choux wheels:
I used the recipe for choux pastry from Suas' book, and both times I've used it, I've ended up adding more eggs than in the recipe in order to get the right consistency. Perhaps I'm cooking the paste a bit too long before adding eggs? Anyways, the more eggs the merrier, right? They piped nicely, and sprung up quite good in the oven.
So much about the choux - let's be honest: The choux wheel is merely a...*ehem*... vehicle for the filling, if you ask me. The real star of the show is the Crème Paris-Brest; the luxurious, artery-clogging cream that is sandwiched between two halves of choux.
May I trouble you with a bit of choux, Madame?
Finally, for a truly ship-sinking cookie, here's my take on Friberg's Florentina surprise. They're pretty elaborate as far as "cookies" are concerned, but if you happen to have some buttercream and shortdough in your freezer (I mean, who doesn't, right? ;), this is a great way to use it all up. The florentina surprise is a shortdough bottom layer, topped with hazelnut flavoured buttercream and a mound of rum flavoured ganache, dark coating chocolate and a thin florentina cookie on top. Below are photos of the florentina and shourtdough components (left) and shortdough with filling piped on top (right):
After the buttercream is set, the cookie is dipped in dark coating chocolate, and the florentina cookie is pressed on top:
The "surprise" part of the name comes from the rum flavoured ganache in the centre of the filling - it's a mouthwatering combination of flavours: Sandy shortdough, buttery hazelnut, crisp caramel-almond taste from the florentina and a great kick from the rum-spiked ganache. Ship-sinking stuff!