Maple-Roasted Apples with Candied Nuts

October 28, 2011 at 10:46 am | Posted in other sweet, sweet things | 3 Comments
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maple-roasted apples with candied nuts

I do bake all day at work, but when this time of year rolls around, I’m also more than happy to dial up the oven when I get home.  The kitchen is the coziest place in this old house on a chilly day (we really need to get our front windows replaced!).  When a new book called All About Roasting: A New Approach to a Classic Art by Molly Stevens found its way into my hands, I immediately began plotting out a Sunday roast-fest!

The book goes into great detail about how to perfectly roast meat and fish, the science behind it and how to get the most out of the technique, but there are also recipes for gorgeous roasted veggies and fruits.  Steven’s Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Capers and Lemony Browned Butter will for sure be on my Thanksgiving table, and maybe I’ll show you those later, but that I assume you are here for the sweet stuff.  My CSA has given me four bags of apples in two weeks, so I’m just searching out things to do with them.  Then my eyes hit this recipe for Maple-Roasted Apples with Candied Nuts, and I knew it would be the first one I’d try.  This has the same warm, sweet flavors of baked and stuffed apples, but they are so much easier to prepare…no tedious hollowing out or accidentally ripped skins.  Here, I followed the author’s suggestion to sever these apples warm over vanilla ice cream, but I can tell you that they are also great over waffles (that’s what I did with the leftovers) or pancakes, and I can’t think of a better topping for oatmeal.

Maple-Roasted Apples with Candied Nuts- makes 4 to 5 servings
adapted from All About Roasting: A New Approach to a Classic Art by Molly Stevens

Steph’s Note:  Prefer your apples with cinnamon or vanilla?  Feel free to switch out the nutmeg and ginger for whatever spices you’d like.

4 large tart, crisp apples (1 1/2 to 2 lbs), like Gravenstein, Cortland or Braeburn
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon maple syrup
4 tablespoons melted butter
1/
2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
salt to taste

3/4 cup nuts (any you like…I used walnuts and pecans)

-Position racks in the top and lower thirds of the oven and heat to 400°F (or 375°F if you are using convection). Line a large heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet and a smaller sheet (like a quarter sheet tray) with foil, parchment or Silpats.

-Cut the apples into quarters (it’s up to you if you want to peel them first…the skin does look pretty and helps the pieces hold shape).  Remove the cores/seeds and cut the quarters into 1/2-inch cubes.  Pile the apples onto the larger baking sheet.  In a measuring cup or small bowl, stir together 1/4 cup maple syrup, 3 tablespoons melted butter and the nutmeg, ginger and a pinch of salt.  Pour the mixture over the apples, toss to combine and arrange in a loose single layer.

-Roast the apples on the bottom rack, tossing after 15 minutes and every ten minutes thereafter so they roast evenly, until soft and slightly caramelized, but not completely collapsed.  This took me 25 minutes here, but may take as long as 40 minutes.

-Meanwhile, pile the nuts on the smaller sheet and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon maple syrup, 1 tablespoon melted butter and a pinch of salt.  Toss to coat and spread out in a single layer.  Roast on the top rack above the apples, stirring once or twice until they are toasty brown, about 10 minutes.  Let the nuts cool before serving, and they will become crisp.

-Serve the fruit warm as a topping for ice cream, oatmeal or whatever you choose, and drizzle any juices from the pan over top.  Scatter with candied nuts and serve.  If you are storing this, keep the fruit and juices in a covered container in the refrigerator, and reheat at 350°F for about 10-15 minutes to warm slightly.  Keep the nuts in a separate continued at room temperature.

Please note that the publisher, W.W. Norton, sent me a copy of this book…but I just bought another copy for a friend!

Vanilla-Caramel Roasted Pineapple

May 15, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Posted in other sweet, sweet things | 12 Comments

vanilla-caramel roasted pineapple

Meet my latest addiction– Vanilla-Caramel Roasted Pineapple.  Pineapple is delicious and sweet as-is, but cook it in rum and vanilla-infused caramel, and you may not be able to eat it any other way again.  The first time I made it, I did just half a recipe, with half a pineapple.  How silly!  It was gone in a flash, and I had to make it again!

If you can manage to control the urge to eat every last piece with your fingers and then drink the syrup, you might like to know that it makes for a great tart, and it transforms Greek yogurt into something even tastier than my childhood favorite Breyers flavor.  It’s a shame I don’t have some vanilla ice cream in the freezer right now, because I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to make an incredible, syrupy pineapple sundae.  Don’t even get me started about pineapple pancakes…

The original recipe comes from Pierre Hermé…I’ve made some minor modifications to it below, basically just to make it a bit quicker/easier to cook and a bit more economical.  If you don’t have banana or ginger, you could modify it further and leave them out, with no ill-effects, I’m sure.  I do recommend roasting the pineapple in quarters, then cutting them into chunks later, as I imagine the smaller pieces could get mushy otherwise.

Vanilla-Caramel Roasted Pineapple
modified from a recipe by Pierre Hermé

1 fresh pineapple, peeled, quartered lengthwise and cored
120 gr granulated sugar
30 gr (about 1/2) mashed banana
1 vanilla pod, scraped
20 ml (4 t) rum
4 thin slices of fresh ginger
60 mL (1/4 c) cold water

-In a small heavy-bottomed pot, make a dry caramel (no water) by heating the sugar over medium heat.  Wait until the caramel is deep amber. If part of the sugar is caramelized while the rest has not melted yet, turn your pot to move the hot spots under the unmelted sugar.

-Meanwhile, split the vanilla pod and scrape the seeds. Add the seeds and pod to the caramel along with the ginger slices. Leave 10 seconds, then pour the cold water into the caramel to stop the cooking process (don’t worry if it seizes).   Bring it to a boil and cook gently until the caramel is liquid.  Remove from the heat and add the rum and mashed banana.

-Leave in the fridge for several hours or overnight to infuse.  The syrup will be quite intensely flavored, but will mellow when it cooks and mingles with the pineapple juices.

-Fish out the vanilla pod (save it) and pass the syrup through a fine sieve.

-Heat the oven to 450°F (230°C) and lay your pineapple quarters in the smallest oven proof dish that will just hold it. Pour the vanilla-caramel sauce over the pineapple, toss in the saved pod, and bake for about 35-40 minutes, turning and basting the pineapple every ten minutes. It is important to check that the caramel remains liquid or else it will burn. If too thick, just add a splash of water.

-When cool, cut the quarters into slices or chunks.  Store them in the fridge in an airtight container, submerged in the syrup.

Daring Bakers in December: Gingerbread House

December 25, 2009 at 1:11 pm | Posted in cookies & bars, daring bakers, groups, other sweet, sweet things | 20 Comments

gingerbread house

Welcome to my home– my gingerbread home!  Let me show you around inside.  It’s nothing fancy.  Just four walls and some spackling.  Oh, and mind your head…the roof has quite a slope.

Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi had us break out our hard hats and toolboxes to construct our very own gingerbread houses for this month’s Daring Bakers’ challenge!  As a result, I’m sure you’ll tour some ultra tricked-out gingerbread houses around Food Blog Avenue this Christmas.  Mine’s more of a cottage, really…some may say a shack…but I’m quite pleased with it.  And it’s now over two weeks old, so I know it’s solidly built!

I used the Scandinavian Gingerbread recipe provided by Y, found an easy template, and started construction.  I needed just half a recipe of dough, and I actually added a spoonful of cocoa powder to it, just to make the color a bit darker.  Some windows, a sanding sugar snowstorm and a wreath out front, and I was a proud homeowner in just a few hours!

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and I’m sure I’ll see you again before the new year!

gingerbread house

Scandinavian Gingerbread (Pepparkakstuga)
adapted from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas

1 cup butter, room temperature [226g]
1 cup brown sugar, well packed [220g]
2 tablespoons cinnamon
4 teaspoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ cup boiling water
5 cups all-purpose flour [875g]

-In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until blended. Add the cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Mix the baking soda with the boiling water and add to the dough along with the flour. Mix to make a stiff dough. If necessary add more water, a tablespoon at a time. Chill 2 hours or overnight.

-Cut patterns for the house, making patterns for the roof, front walls, gabled walls, chimney and door out of cardboard.

-Roll the dough out on a large, ungreased baking sheet and place the patterns on the dough. Mark off the various pieces with a knife, but leave the pieces in place.

-Roll out the dough on a floured bench, roughly 1/8 inch thick (which allows for fact that the dough puffs a little when baked), cut required shapes and transferred these to the baking sheet.  You can save any scraps to reroll at the end.

-Preheat the oven to 375’F (190’C). Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the cookie dough feels firm. After baking, again place the pattern on top of the gingerbread and trim the shapes, cutting the edges with a straight-edged knife. Leave to cool on the baking sheet.

Royal Icing

1 large egg white
3 cups (330g) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon almond extract

-Beat all ingredients until smooth, adding the powdered sugar gradually to get the desired consistency. Pipe on pieces and allow to dry before assembling. If you aren’t using it all at once you can keep it in a small bowl, loosely covered with a damp towel for a few hours until ready to use. You may have to beat it slightly to get it an even consistency if the top sets up a bit. Piped on the house, this will set up hard over time.

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

Daring Bakers in September: Vols-au-Vent with Michel Richard’s Puff Pastry Dough

September 27, 2009 at 12:05 am | Posted in daring bakers, groups, other savory, other sweet, savory things, sweet things | 97 Comments

vols-au-vent (smoked salmon mousse canapé)

After more than two years as a Daring Baker (it all started with a mirror cake…), I’m so excited that Liz and Ivonne have asked me to host a challenge!  Woo-hoo!  But oh no–what to pick??  Looking over past challenges, I realized that we’ve covered a lot of territory!  One thing we haven’t made since I’ve been in the group, though, is our own puff pastry (aka pâte feuilletée).  Puff is something most of us usually buy at the grocery store, but in order to be really daring, we should try to make our own at least once, right?

Puff pastry is in the “laminated dough” family, along with Danish dough and croissant dough.  (In fact, if you participated in the Danish Braid challenge back in June 2008, then you already know the general procedure for working with laminated dough.)  A laminated dough consists of a large block of butter (called the beurrage) that is enclosed in dough (called the détrempe).  This dough/butter packet is called a paton, and is rolled and folded repeatedly (a process known as “turning”) to create the crisp, flaky, parallel layers you see when baked.  Unlike Danish or croissant however, puff pastry dough contains no yeast in the détrempe, and relies solely aeration to achieve its high rise.  The turning process creates hundreds of layers of butter and dough, with air trapped between each one. In the hot oven, water in the dough and the melting butter creates steam, which expands in the trapped air pockets, forcing the pastry to rise.

I picked a recipe for homemade puff pastry from Michel Richard, as it appears in the book Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan. In order to showcase off the hundreds of flaky, golden, buttery layers in the homemade puff, we formed a portion of it into vols-au-vent– little puff pastry cases designed to hold a filling.  They can be made large enough for a full meal, or made small for little one-bite canapés.  Vols-au-vent are typically served hot and filled with a creamy savory filling (often poultry or seafood-based), but cold fillings, such as chicken or tuna salad, work, too.  Whipped cream or pastry cream with fresh or stewed fruit often goes into sweet versions.

vols-au-vent (vanilla whipped cream and strawberries)

Sizes of and fillings for the vols-au-vent were left up to the individual baker.  I made three types: a smoked salmon mousse canapé, a larger main course-size filled with tuna salad and a sweet version with vanilla whipped cream and bright red tristar strawberries.

vols-au-vent (tuna salad)

As it’s a little long, here’s a printable link to the recipe for puff pastry, as well as instructions for forming vol-au-vents and some extra tips.  Also, there is a wonderful on-line video from the PBS show “Baking with Julia” that accompanies the book.  In it, Michel Richard and Julia Child demonstrate making puff pastry dough (although they go on to use it in other applications).  Dont’ be put off by the length of time it takes to make your own puff pastry (most of it is inactive, while waiting for the dough to chill between turns)…it really isn’t that hard to do!  I encourage anyone who has never made puff before to take a look at the video, get some good butter, and give it a try!

Thanks so much to everyone who participated in this month’s challenge– I know it required a lot of time and a lot of butter, both of which are precious commodities.  I appreciate your feedback and advice in the forums…not to mention your fabulous results!!  Also, of course, great big hugs go to Liz and Ivonne, not only for starting this group, but for keeping it alive and fun and so well-organized!  Check out the Daring Bakers’ Blogroll for more adventures in puff!

The September 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

DB lady whisk

Daring Bakers in May: Strudel, Two Ways

May 27, 2009 at 2:23 am | Posted in daring bakers, groups, other savory, other sweet, savory things, sweet things, veggies | 43 Comments

mushroom and goat cheese strudel

Courtney of Coco Cooks and Linda of make life sweeter! picked a fantastic Daring Bakers’ challenge this month– strudel!  Just thinking about strudel makes me long to re-visit Vienna and Budapest, cities that I travelled to long ago.  At just nineteen, it was too bad I didn’t know then what I know now about pastries.  Actually, maybe it was a good thing– I would never have seen the sights because I would have been sitting in coffee houses all day long!

Prior to this, the only time I’ve made true strudel dough was while studying at the FCI.  I vividly remember my partner in strudel-making crime, S, and I struggling with a huge ball of dough, stretching it gently over our hands to eventually cover our entire worktable.  I also vividly remember that taking more patience and concentration than I’m normally willing to put in, so whenever I’ve made strudel at home, I’ve gone the lazy route and used store-bought phyllo instead!

My dessert schedule is rather full on at the moment, so I thought something savory would be the smartest way to get this challenge done.  Mushrooms immediately came to mind as a tasty strudel filling, and here I used a combination of crimini, shitake and trumpet.  I sautéed them first, mainly so I knew they would be cooked through and seasoned properly, but also to release their liquid so the pastry wouldn’t turn soggy.  Caramelized onions, garlic, pine nuts and goat cheese all sounded like good things to add to ‘shrooms, and went into the mix.  I have to say that I just winged my filling measurement-wise, and was quite please to have a bit left-over…it will make tomorrow morning’s omelette that much better. 

There are only two of us here at home, so I just made a half-recipe of the dough.  It was a really easy amount to deal with, and I stretched it solo on a clean tea towel with no problems at all– very little patience and concentration required, thank you!  My strudel-for-two was a cinch to fill and transfer as well.  The mushrooms and goat cheese made a wonderful, hearty filling…perfect for a cool spring day like today.  A glass of red wine and some asparagus on the side…much to R’s dismay, I was belting out “I am Sixteen Going on Seventeen” at the dinner table (OK, so that was probably just the wine)!

I had only planned to make the mushroom strudel, but I had the teensiest bit of dough left after rolling it, so I made a couple of two-bite apple strudels as well.  Since they were so small, to make the filling, I just grated half an apple, squeezed most of the liquid out, and tossed it with dark brown sugar, cinnamon and chopped pecans.  And the only way to eat apple strudel?  Mit schlag, of course!

apple strudel

This was a really fun recipe to make, and it’s very adaptable.  Sweet and savory possibilities are limitless, although I’m sure you’ll find heaps of inspiration on the Daring Kitchen site.  I’m listing the recipe for the dough below, but you can find more information on Coco Cooks and make life sweeter!  

Strudel Dough
from Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers

1 1/3 cups (200 g) unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

your prepared filling of choice
5 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 cups (350 ml) fresh bread crumbs

-Combine the flour and salt in a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the water, oil and vinegar in a measuring cup.  Add the water/oil mixture to the flour with the mixer on low speed.  You will get a soft dough. Make sure it is not too dry, add a little more water if necessary.  Take the dough out of the mixer.  Change to the dough hook. Put the dough ball back in the mixer.  Let the dough knead on medium until you get a soft dough ball with a somewhat rough surface.

-Take the dough out of the mixer and continue kneading by hand on an unfloured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes.  Pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally.  Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a plate. Oil the top of the dough ball lightly.  Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30-90 minutes (longer is better).

-It would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36 inch (90 cm) round table or a work surface of 23 x 38 inches (60 x 100 cm).  Cover your working area with table cloth, dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric.  Put your dough ball in the middle and roll it out as much as you can.  Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge.  This way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs.  Using the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough. You can use your forearms to support it.

-The dough will become too large to hold.  Put it on your work surface.  Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table.  Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands.  Stretch and pull the dough until it’s about 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 3 feet (90 cm) long, it will be tissue-thin by this time.  Cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors.  The dough is now ready to be filled.

-Put the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).  Line a large baking sheet with baking paper (parchment paper).   Spread about 3 tablespoons of the melted butter over the dough using your hands (a bristle brush could tear the dough, you could use a special feather pastry brush instead of your hands).  Sprinkle the buttered dough with the bread crumbs.  Spread your filling about 3 inches (8 cm) from the short edge of the dough in a 6-inch-(15cm)-wide strip.

-Fold the short end of the dough onto the filling.  Lift the tablecloth at the short end of the dough so that the strudel rolls onto itself.  Transfer the strudel to the prepared baking sheet by lifting it.  Curve it into a horseshoe to fit, if necessary.  Tuck the ends under the strudel.  Brush the top with the remaining melted butter.

-Bake the strudel for about 30 minutes or until it is deep golden brown.  Cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing.  Use a serrated knife and serve either warm or at room temperature.  It is best on the day it is baked.

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

Tuesdays with Dorie: Floating Islands

February 10, 2009 at 2:39 am | Posted in groups, other sweet, puddings & custards, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 41 Comments

floating islands

Shari, a loyal TWDer who does cool things with classic dishes on Whisk: a food blog, chose Floating Islands (île flottante), a traditional French dessert, for this week’s recipe.   I actually would have called this “snow eggs” (oeufs à la neige), but now I realize I don’t know what the difference is, if there really is one (and Googling it didn’t help, as I found different info on each link…too much information sometimes just confuses me). 

This dessert makes me smile; it looks kind of goofy, don’t you think?  The basic idea is this: a milk-poached meringue sits in a pool of crème anglaise custard.  It’s light from the meringue and, at the same time, rich from the custard…and because it’s served chilled, it’s really quite refreshing.

Rather than quenelling smooth, egg-shaped meringues, I tried to make cute, spiky little islands.  Unfortunately, my cute spikes flattened as I turned the meringues during the poaching process, and I ended up with deformed blobs.  Whatever…looks aren’t everything.  I made my meringues first, and so that I wouldn’t waste the poaching milk, I strained and remeasured it and used it as the basis for the custard sauce.

Traditionally, a drizzle of caramel finishes off floating islands, but because caramel doesn’t keep, and I had to take the blog pictures several hours before I’d be eating the dessert, I chose to skip that bit.  I didn’t want my islands to look barren though, so in an effort to spruce them up another way, I decided to infuse my anglaise with orange zest and garnish with a few fresh berries.  And since this is an old-school dessert, I went with some old-school baby mint sprigs, just for good measure.

floating islands

For the recipe, read Whisk: a food blog or see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan.  Don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll.

Daring Bakers in December: French Yule Log

December 29, 2008 at 5:29 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, daring bakers, groups, other sweet, sweet things | 41 Comments

French yule log

This month’s challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux.  They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand.  Now, now…before you go thinking that we did that last December, let me assure you that this is a very different dessert altogether.

This yule log is a truly impressive, multi-layered affair.  Almond dacquoise, chocolate-caramel ganache, praline feuilletine, and vanilla crème brulée…all nestled between layers of dark chocolate mousse, and capped off with a super-shiny glaze.  Sounds lush, right?  It certainly is.  (The ganache layer, by the way– amazing!!  Also the crispy feuilletine…I could have eaten the whole layer by itself, before it even made it into the log.)

This is kind of an investment in time and ingredients, but taken separately, each component is actually quite easy and quick to prepare.  I spread my work over three days.  On day one, I made the ganache, feuilletine and brulée layers.  (I can see the feuilletine layer being a bit of a pain, but I had it easy, because I was able to purchase gavottes and praline paste through work.)  On day two, I made the dacquoise and mousse and assembled the layers, leaving it to freeze overnight.  On the last day, all that was left was to unmold and prepare the glaze.  I used a standard loaf pan (lined with plastic wrap) to mold my log.  The finished dessert is quite large…it’s probably about ten servings.  And we will enjoy each and every one.

Sorry that I don’t have more (or better) pictures to share, but my apartment is like a cave with the low winter sun, or lack thereof!  I have to take what I can get.  Let me assure you that this dessert is as decadent as it sounds, so if you’re up for a challenge, visit Hilda’s post for the recipe.

DB whisk

Daring Bakers in August: Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs

August 31, 2008 at 4:25 am | Posted in daring bakers, groups, other sweet, sweet things | 63 Comments

chocolate éclairs by Pierre Hermé

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.

chocolate éclairs by Pierre Hermé

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.

chocolate éclairs by Pierre Hermé

Check out the DB blogroll!  And visit Meeta or Tony for the recipe (which was adapted from Chocolate Desserts By Pierre Hermé).

DB whisk

Tuesdays with Dorie: Peppermint Cream Puff Ring

June 17, 2008 at 4:16 am | Posted in groups, other sweet, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 67 Comments

peppermint cream puff ring

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). 

 peppermint cream puff ring

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!”

peppermint cream puff 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!

Tuesdays with Dorie: Marshmallows

April 15, 2008 at 5:31 am | Posted in groups, other sweet, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 53 Comments

cappuccino marshmallows

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.

cappuccino marshmallows

You can find this recipe on Judy’s Gross Eats— thanks Judy!  It’s also in  Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan.  Now go check out the TWD Blogroll!

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