This will be part one of a Sailor Moon inspired dessert series. The plan is to make a 1-2 serving cafe-style dessert to represent each of the Inner Senshi. I’ll be shooting for one dessert a week, though that may not include the holidays!
A bit of the usual backstory… A friend of mine recently showed me photos of the Sailor Moon cafe in Japan, and I was totally taken with every detail. However, I couldn’t help but have a certain thought when I saw their adorable, but somewhat generic desserts: “I bet I could make desserts that express the Senshi’s personalities more.” (Note: They also had a drink for each Senshi, and those looked utterly fantastic. There just wasn’t a dessert for each one, and I felt this had to remedied.)
So, with some brainstorming with my friends and a set of sketches, I begun my series.
ACT ONE: USAGI
Jam-Filled Chiffon Cake with Cream Puffs
Yields: 4 mini cakes, big enough to share!
Timing Notes: Nothing in this recipe needs to rest overnight, but make sure you give yourself sufficient time to get the pastry cream nice and chilled.
Pâte à Choux, recipe follows
Chiffon Cake, recipe follows
Pastry Cream, recipe follows
Stabilized Whipped Cream, recipe follows
Jam (I used plum because my MIL gave me some of her homemade plum jam, but the flavor is totally up to you!)
8 oz. (225g) of white chocolate chips
1/2 tsp teaspoon (3ml) of vegetable oil
1. Prepare all your components. My suggested order for production is as follows: pâte à choux first, chiffon second. Pastry cream while the chiffon bakes, and whipped cream filling just before assembly.
2. Begin assembly once all your components are completely cooled. First, cut four 4 1/2″-5″ rounds out of your chiffon cake. Split the rounds into two layers. Sandwich about 1-2 spoonfuls of your jam between your cake layers, being sure it doesn’t squish out on the sides. Spread a thin crumb coat of whipped cream over the cakes and chill.
2. While the cakes chill, melt the white chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave in 10-second increments. Add the vegetable oil and mix. (Note: The addition of the oil creates a kind of faux temper.) Spread the chocolate into a thick, but even layer on a silicone mat or sheet of parchment paper. Be sure you’ve spread it out enough to punch out four 2″-2 1/2″ circles. Chill it in the fridge for 10-15 minutes.
3. Pull out your cakes and final-ice them with the whipped cream. Return them to the fridge.
4. Prep your final garnishes. First, choose your 12 nicest choux and split them in half with a serrated knife. (The other four are extra, so enjoy a treat!) Set aside. Pull out your chocolate sheet and choose two round cutters, one 2″-2 1/2″ and the other about 1 1/2″ (or whichever size achieves the moon shape you like). Carefully warm the sharp side of the cutter in very hot water (dry it before using it) or over a flame, then cut a circle from your chocolate. I like to apply gentle pressure and twist. Use your smaller cutter on the bigger chocolate circle in the same way to make a crescent shape. Once your moons are cut out, set them aside.
5. Make your choux filling. Mix your pastry cream with approximately one cup of your whipped cream, and fill the mixture into a piping bag with a star tip (I used an A2).
5. Assembly time! Arrange 3 choux bottoms on top of each cake. Pipe a rosette of your pastry cream mixture onto each choux bottom, then place the tops of the choux on the rosette. This is also the time to pipe any whipped cream details you might want to add. Place your chocolate moon inbetween the choux, and you’re done!
Pâte à Choux
2 tbsp + 2 tsp (40ml) water
2 tbsp + 2 tsp (40ml) milk
2 tbsp. (30g) butter
1/2 cup (60g) bread flour
1 tsp (5g) sugar
One TINY pinch of salt
2 eggs, mixed
1. Preheat the oven to 425F (220C) and line a sheet pan with ungreased parchment or a silicone mat. In a saucepan, combine the water, milk, sugar, salt and butter. Bring to a rolling boil, then dump in the flour and mix vigorously. The mix will form into a ball. Continue mixing it; you want to dry the batter out some. In a non-stick pan, the dough should begin to leave a film on the bottom. Dump the hot dough into a bowl and stir it until it’s cooled down.
2. Gradually add in the egg and beat with a mixer. Your goal is NOT to use all of the egg, but to achieve the proper consistency. Depending on how dry your dough is, you may use more or less than the recipe calls for. Add about 1/2 an egg at a time, mixing throughly after each addition. The dough is at the proper consistency when it’s just stretchy enough for you to take a pinch of it between your hand and stretch it to 1″ long, as shown below. (It looks gross, I know. An alternative is lifting the paddle of your mixer and finding that the dough makes a V shape as it drops.) If you make it too wet it won’t rise, and if it isn’t wet enough it won’t expand properly.
3. Fill the dough into a piping bag with a medium-sized round tip and pipe 16 cream puffs. They should be quite small (1″ diameter at most), and a couple of inches apart. Keep in mind they will expand quite a lot. If you have a bit of egg left over, mix it with about a teaspoon of water and gently brush the mixture on top of your cream puffs. This adds a bit of shine, and you can use it to smooth out peaks. If you don’t have egg left over, you can just skip the egg wash.
4. Bake for 8 minutes, then reduce to temperature to 350F (175C). Allow to bake until nicely browned and dried out, then remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
4 eggs, separated
1 1/4 cup (140g) sifted cake flour
3/4 cup (150g) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons (8ml or 3g) baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp (95ml) water
1/4 cup (60ml) vegetable oil
1 teaspoon (5ml) lemon extract
Pinch of cream of tartar
1. Pre-heat your oven to 325F (160C) and line a 8″ or 10″ square cake pan with parchment around both the sides and bottom. You can use shortening or butter to make the parchment stick, but do not grease the parchment.
2. Combine egg yolks, canola oil, water, vanilla, and lemon zest in a large bowl, whisking until foamy and well-beaten. In a separate bowl, sift together the sugar, baking powder and cake flour. Fold the flour mixture into the egg yolk mixture until just combined.
3. Using clean beaters, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. Fold gently into the egg yolk mixture. Pour into cake pan and knock pan sharply on counter 3 times to remove any large air bubbles. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Turn cake onto another cake pan or a plate, then flip it back over so the rounded side once again faces up. Cover it in saran wrap while warm. Once completely cool, remove the wrap and level the cake with a serrated knife.
Vanilla Pastry Cream
1 cup (240ml) milk
1/4 cup (50g) sugar
2 tbsp (15g) cornstarch
1 tbsp (15g) butter
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
1. Combine all ingredients except the butter in a saucepan and cook on medium-low, stirring constantly until the mixtured has thickened and cooked thoroughly.
2. Take it off the heat and mix in the butter while the cream is still hot. Once the two are combined, press the cream through a strainer, cover it in plastic wrap (pushing the wrap onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming) and chill the cream completely.
Stabilized Whipped Cream
1 tbsp (8g) powdered gelatin
4 tbsp (60ml) ice cold water
3 cups (700ml) heavy cream
1/3 cup (35g) powdered sugar
1. In small bowl, mix the gelatin and cold water and allow to bloom for 5 minutes. In a larger bowl, beat the powdered sugar and cream until the whipped cream has reached soft-to-medium peaks. Gently warm the gelatin, either over a double boiler or in the microwave. Either way, be sure the gelatin has dissolved, but do not allow the mixture to boil.
2. Pour the gelatin mixture into your heavy cream while mixing, and mix on medium-high speed until you just achieve medium-stiff peaks. Avoid making it extremely stiff, as icing and piping with the cream will continue to “beat” the it and the appearance of your final icing won’t be as smooth.
I hope all you Moonies enjoy this recipe and hang around for next week… Act Two: Ami!