Éclairs may be my husband’s favorite pastry. He blames a box of éclairs that I made and brought home while in cooking school for sending him on a downward sweets spiral that resulted in him being on a diet for like two years after my graduation! I blame his lack of self-control. Let’s see if he can keep it together for this month’s Daring Bakers event– Meeta from What’s For Lunch, Honey? and Tony of Olive Juice have challenged us to make éclairs. Not just any éclairs, but Pierre Hermé’s éclairs.
Éclairs are made from choux pastry, usually filled with pastry cream and dipped in chocolate. They’re just like a cream puff, but elongated instead of round. Meeta and Tony wanted us to keep either the glaze or the pastry cream chocolate, but gave us free reign to make one of them non-chocolate. I kept the chocolate on top and filled mine with a coffee-wattleseed pastry cream.
It wasn’t until I took that top picture, that I noticed that from the side, my éclair looked a little weird. “What’s with this thing?” I thought. I usually prefer not to cut éclairs in half in order to fill them. Looks-wise, I like them better when they are kept intact and filled through a small hole in the back or on the bottom. But I was fast running out of daylight for my photos, so I figured I’d cut them in half to cool quicker and just assemble and photograph one right away. Upon closer inspection, I realized that rather than filling the bottom half of the éclair I photoed with pastry cream, I’d filled the top half of another one, and then sandwiched the two together. D’oh! I thought about a redo but then I decided to leave it, so you can have a glimpse of what it’s like to be me, the master (or mistress, I guess) of imperfection.
I made Dorie’s pâte à choux not too long ago, and I think I preferred it. The ingredients aren’t too different, although this one from Hermé has an additional egg. Perhaps that’s why it seemd a little crustier than I’m used to. I also had to bake it a bit longer than the recommended 20 minutes to dry it out and get it the shade of brown I like. I do love the chocolate sauce, though. It is delicious, and luckily I have a bunch left over..it will be great on ice cream.
When I saw that Caroline of A Consuming Passion had chosen Dorie’s Peppermint Cream Puff Ring for TWD, my fist thought was that it reminded me of Christmas, but that’s actually quite right for the weather over here. I even had a bunch of mint in the fridge that I was looking to finish off (why is that stuff so hard to use up?)–perfect!
Have I ever told you that I love making pâte à choux, the base for cream puffs, eclairs, profiteroles and the like? This wasn’t always the case though. In culinary school, we had to use all these crazy tests to tell if we had added the “proper” amount of egg to the dough. And for baking–turn the oven up, then down, then off. Argh! Then I went to work in a restaurant and it was like, “just use four eggs and bake them at 375° till they’re done.” Freed of all that egg ambiguity and temperature trickery, choux became really fun and easy!
Dorie calls for the choux paste to be piped out in the shape of a large ring that is later cut in half and filled, similar to a Paris-Brest. Partly because several other TWDers had their choux rings deflate on them, but mostly because a big ring sounded a bit too much for our small household, I decided to pipe individual cream puffs instead. For these cream puffs, I made a half recipe of choux, using two whole eggs. (One tip that Dorie doesn’t mention is to paddle the cooked paste in the mixer for a minute to cool it off a bit before adding the eggs one by one. It should still be warm, but it is good to let some of the steam out before the eggs go in.) This yielded about 24 two-bite puffs (using a 1/2-inch tip to pipe about 1 1/2-inch mounds).
I baked off nine right away and put the rest in the freezer to bake later. Since I was already switching up the shape of Dorie’s choux, I decided to proceed with her baking instructions rather than my one-temperature method. I baked my puffs for 15 minutes at 425°, then about 10 more at 375°. While I was at it, after they were fully baked, I used a pairing knife to put a small slit in the side of each baked puff, and further dried them out in the turned-off oven, which I cracked open with a wooden spoon, for about 30 minutes. This baking process was much less painful than I remembered it in school (but then again, most things are).
The cooled puffs (or ring) were sliced in half and filled with a mint-infused whipped cream. A little sour cream or crème fraîche folded in gave it a bit of tang, but it would have been just as tasty without. Capped off with dark chocolate glaze and toasted almonds, these were perfect little bites. And just for Dorie, I presented my puffs in the form of a (rather dodgy-looking) “ring!”
Thanks Caroline! As always, the recipe’s in Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, but this time she also has a version of it here on Epicurious. And don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll!
The word of the day is althaiophobia: a fear of marshmallows. And no, I didn’t make that up.
I’m kinda afraid of marshmallows. Not really the marshmallows themselves, but the gelatin inside them. When I saw that Judy of Judy’s Gross Eats had chosen marshmallows as this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, I was a little frightened. I really wanted to participate, but I really didn’t want to use gelatin, and after the agar-agar disaster of ’07, I wasn’t too excited to try that again either. Luckily, this time of year the Kosher section of the supermarket is pretty well-stocked, and I was able to pick up a box of fish gelatin. I’d never used it before, and wasn’t sure how to (the package labeling is in Hebrew, so it didn’t help me out a lot). It’s a little more granular than regular gelatin, but I decided to treat it the same way, since I didn’t have any better ideas.
I went with Dorie’s ‘Playing Around’ instructions for cappuccino marshmallows, and based on some advice from other TWDers, just stirred in the cappuccino mixture at the very end to keep the marshmallows from deflating. I set them in a glass baking dish rather than a baking sheet, which just seemed easier to me, and made them nice and tall. I wasn’t sure if they would set up or not with that gelatin, so as soon as I tipped the mix into the dish, I immediately left the house and went to the movies (if you haven’t seen ‘Lars and the Real Girl,’ you should!). If there’s one bad kitchen habit I have, it’s that I must endlessly poke and inspect things that I should just leave alone.
I was really pleased with how they turned out! They were soft and squishy and high. Now here’s the cake plate shot, à la Dorie.
What time is it? It’s time to put on my disposable paper cap and make like Fred! Two of my favorite food bloggers, Peabody and Tartelette, have teamed up to host Time To Make The Doughnuts, and I couldn’t not participate. I must say, I love doughnuts but I rarely allow myself to have them because I can quickly spiral out of control. This is embarrassing, but if you have a box of Entenmann’s chocolate glazed things in the fridge (those MUST be eaten cold!) and invite me over, do not turn your back on me because I will sense their presence and they will magically disappear! And back when Krispy Kreme was just a southern thang, it was so fun to go to the big shop near Grandma W’s and watch as they plopped off the line and into the vat of fat! Oh, and have you ever had one from the Doughnut Plant? They are the schiznit!
I definitely go for cake-style doughnuts over yeast-raised; usually cinnamon-sprinkled or chocolate-frosted. But there is another type of doughnut that really makes my heart race (yes, this is probably actually because of sugar content)…glazed crullers. I love them, but I had never made them myself and had no idea how they were made either. So I decided to find out, and fry them up for Peabody and Helene.
Turns out they are just pâte à choux, the same dough you’d use for eclairs or creampuffs, fried and glazed. I found a recipe in the book Kaffeehaus by Rick Rodgers. They are a Viennese treat, properly called spritzkrapfen. As an aside, I drool over everything in this book. I went to Vienna, Budapest and Prague as part of a backpacking trip in college. It’s too bad that I didn’t know anything about anything back then, because I would have loved to experience the kaffeehaus atmposphere (and pastries!). I will have to go back sometime and do it right.
Back to the doughnuts…My crullers came out very homemade-looking (if not for the label, would you have mistaken them for onion rings in the photo??), but they were totally melt-in-your-mouth, and the rum glaze was sensational. They were easily the best crullers I’ve had…probably because they were so fresh, and of course dripping with rum. My brother had two suggestions for improvement–make them bigger (I couldn’t agree more) and make more of them (I only made three so as not to be piggy)!
Crullers with Rum Glaze (Spritzkrapfen)- makes 14
adapted from Kaffeehaus by Rick Rodgers
1 cup water
8 T (4 oz) unsalted butter, cubed
1 t sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup unbleached flour
4 large eggs (3 whole and 1 beaten), room temperature
Vegetable oil, for frying
2 cups powdered sugar
2 T golden rum
1 T water, approximately
For the crullers:Combine the water, butter, sugar, and salt in a large saucepan and bring to a full boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally so the butter melts. Remove from the heat, add all the flour at once, and stir hard with a wooden spoon until all the flour is incorporated and it forms a ball. Return the pan medium-low heat and cook. Stir continuously to evaporate some of the moisture, until the dough films the bottom of the pan, about 90 seconds.
Scrape the mixture into a medium bowl. Using a handheld electric mixer (you could do this by hand or in a stand mixer), beat in the three whole eggs one at a time, making sure they are completely incorporated and stopping after each addition to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add as much of the fourth beaten egg as needed so the dough is thick and hold its shape, but falls slowly and steadily from the beaters when you lift it out of the bowl. It should be smooth and shiny.
Cut out fourteen 4-inch parchment squares and place a wire rack over a sheet pan for draining. Using a pastry bag fitted with an open star tip (Rodgers recommends a 9/16-inch-wide tip, like Ateco #825, but I’d go even a bit wider), pipe the dough into 3-inch circles onto the parchment squares.
Pour the vegetable oil into a large pot or Dutch oven to a depth of 3 inches and heat to 360°F. Working in batches, without crowding, place the dough circles (still on their papers) upside-down in the oil. After about 15 seconds, use tongs to pull off and discard the papers. Fry, turning once, until golden on both sides. Using a skimmer, transfer the cooked crullers to the rack to drain, and repeat for the next batch. Try to keep the oil at 360°F throughout.
For the rum glaze: Sift the powdered sugar into a medium bowl. Whisk in the rum and enough water to make a glaze the consistency of heavy cream. Dip each cruller upside-down in the glaze and place right side up on the rack to cool and set.
OMG…there are so many events I want to do this month, and of course I’ve saved them all until the last second! I’ve always been a procrastinator, so this is really just par for the course. But anyway, there will be lots of desserts for R and me (and a barrage of posts for you) this last week of September! So to kick things off, I’m starting with what’s due in just a couple of hours– Sugar High Friday! This month’s hostess is Ivonne, author of the addictively delicious Cream Puffs in Venice, and she’s chosen ‘The Beautiful Fig‘ as her theme.
For a long time I thought figs were really not so beautiful. Fig Newtons (to me anyway) are gross, and so fresh figs suffered from guilt by association. I never even had one until my mid-twenties. I was surprised to find that a fresh fig is sweet and soft, smells great, is pretty and pleasantly seedy–nothing like the icky pasty stuff inside a Newton! I am still not crazy about dried figs, unless they have been heavily booze-soaked. But alas, the fruit (it’s actually a flower, as I read on Cream Puff’s blog) was to suffer another setback when the most annoyingly twitty boy in my culinary school class described a fresh fig as being like a certain part of a woman! Ack–why, WHY did I have to hear that, especially from him?!? Some mental scarring still remains, but I no longer take things out on the innocent fig.
My inspiration for this recipe comes from Regan Daley’s recipe for oven-roasted figs with honey and orange in In the Sweet Kitchen, one of my bookshelf favorites. I tweaked the technique and ingredients a bit because the figs right now in Sydney are maybe not quite as beautiful as their fall counterparts up in the Northern Hemisphere. Chef Daley roasts the figs in the oven in a bath of orange juice, honey and spices. I gave this method a test drive last week, and it truly tasted fabulous, but it kind of drained the color out of my figs. I like to get a pretty picture you know, so I tried again, reducing my liquid to a loose syrup on the stove top before adding the figs to just briefly soften. Once off the heat, I then stirred in a handful of raspberries for some extra visual pop (not to mention they taste great with figs). I let the compote cool just slightly and then put it over vanilla ice cream. I think it would be great with yogurt, too. Scrummy and beautiful!
Fig and Raspberry Compote- makes three or four servings, depending on how much fruit you use
1 orange, zested and juiced
1 cinnamon stick
2 cardamom pods, smashed
1/4 c honey
2 T sugar
pinch of salt
2 T unsalted butter
several figs, quartered (I used 5 figs, but you could throw in a couple more)
handful of raspberries (fresh or frozen)
-Combine the orange juice and zest, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, honey, sugar and salt in a small sauce pan. Simmer until cooked down and slightly syrupy. Whisk in the butter.
-Add the cut figs, tossing in the syrup. If your figs are ripe and soft, you can remove the pan from the stove top, and the residual heat from the syrup should warm them through. If your figs are on the firm side, continue to gently simmer in the syrup until they soften slightly, about five minutes.
-Once off the heat, discard the cinnamon stick and cardamom pods. Toss in the raspberries, coating with syrup.
-Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before spooning over ice cream.
I only realized that it was time again for Sugar High Friday when I saw the great-looking posts popping up on other blogs. Recipes with mango, coconut, pineapple…it didn’t take a genius to see that this month’s host Mary from alpineberry has chosen “tropical paradise” as the theme. Right on time, too. I could use something lighter– I’ve just about OD’ed on chocolate mud cake from that madhatter I decorated over the weekend. Also, there’s a really good selection of tropical fruit here (I think Queensland is a big growing region). It all looks really nice and is easy to find.
I didn’t have to wonder long what tropical concoction I would make. The new issue of delicious. magazine was in my mailbox on Tuesday, and on the cover was a winter pavolva with poached quince and cinnamon whipped cream. Of course those particular flavors wouldn’t whisk me off to palm trees and hot sand, but I immediately thought that a pavlova would be an excellent vehicle for tropical fruit. So I went to the market and came back with passion fruit, mango, papaya and star fruit. To amp up the tropicaliness (new word!) of the dessert, I folded a little fine desiccated coconut into the meringue before baking and I sweetened the whipped cream with soft palm sugar.
If you’ve never had a pavlova before, it’s a legendary Australian dessert, although I think the Kiwis also argue that it’s theirs. I don’t who’s right about that, but I do know that crispy-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside meringue topped with whipped cream and tropical fruit will make you feel like you are somewhere far away from your small city apartment.
Tropical Pavlova - makes 4 servings
adapted from delicious. (August 2007)
for the meringues:
2 egg whites
pinch of salt
125 g superfine sugar
1/2 t white vinegar
1/2 t vanilla extract
1 t cornstarch
2 T desiccated coconut (optional)
for the whipped cream:
200 ml heavy cream
2 T palm sugar (can substitute 2 T powdered sugar, sifted)
for the fruit:
use whatever you like
-for the meringues: Preheat oven to 230°F/120°C. Draw four 9 cm circles on a sheet of parchment, leaving space between. Flip the parchment over and use to line a baking sheet (make sure your circles are visible beneath the sheet).
Using a mixer, beat whites with a pinch of salt until they hold soft peaks. Gradually sprinkle in the superfine sugar, beating well between each addition. Whip until the whites are stiff and shiny. Carefully fold in the vinegar, vanilla, cornstarch and coconut (if using). Pile meringue onto circles on baking sheet and spread to size, making an indent in the center of each.
Bake for 50 minutes. Meringues should be crisp on the outside. Turn off oven, crack door slightly and cool meringues in oven for 1 hour. Remove from oven to finish cooling.
-for the whipped cream: Whip the cream to soft peaks with the sugar.
-to assemble: Pile whipped cream on top of the meringue indents. Top with cut fruit.