Sunday, August 31, 2008


The August Daring Baker's challenge was Chocolate Eclairs. It was hosted by MeetaK and Tony Tahhan and the recipe was taken from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme.

All we had to do was follow Pierre's recipe for Pate a Choux and use one chocolate element in or on the eclairs. The suggested filling was Pierre's Chocolate Pastry Cream and let me tell you it is delicious!!

Because I make Eclairs all the time for buffets, I wanted to make them for this challenge but I also wanted to challenge myself to come up with another "play on the traditional eclair". So I decided upon a "Deconstructed Eclair" and served it as a plated dessert.

Here is the procedure for making the Eclairs:

Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

½ cup (125g) whole milk
½ cup (125g) water
1 stick (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
¼ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, at room temperature

In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to a boil.

Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to.

You need to continue to stir for another 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough will be very soft and smooth.

Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your
hand mixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough. You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back together again by the time you have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.

The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be piped out onto a parchment lined sheet pan.

You can pipe any size eclairs but try to make them all uniform in size so they bake evenly. I like to make them about 3" - 4" in length and 3/4" - 1" in diameter.

To make the pate a choux grids for the plated dessert, draw the grid lines on a piece of parchment paper. Turn it over and place it on a sheet pan. With a small piping tip #3 or #4 pipe the choux paste onto the parchment following the lines into the size you want. For the circles, pipe the grid lines then pipe a circle of choux paste around the outside of them.

1) Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately.
2) You can pipe the dough and then freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.

When ready to bake put them in a preheated 400 degree oven and cook for 15 minutes. Turn the oven down to 375 degrees and cook for another 5 minutes. Turn the oven down to 350 and cook another 5 minutes or until they are nicely browned and puffed and almost hollow on the inside. Remove them from the oven and let them cool before filling.

Chocolate Pastry Cream
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by PierreHermé

2 Cups Whole Milk
4 Large Egg Yolks
6 Tablespoons Sugar
3 Tablespoons Cornstarch (sifted)
7 Ounces Bittersweet Chocolate (Melted) (preferably Valrhona Guanaja)
1¼ Ounces Unsalted Butter (room temperature)

In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a bowl.

Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a small amount of the hot milk into the yolk mixture. Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.

Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stopping) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat). Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.

Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth.

Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments making sure to completely melt each addition. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.

1) The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.
2) In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.
3) Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.

When ready to fill the eclairs, put the cream in a pastry bag fitted with a small star tip. Make a hole in the side of the eclair and pipe in the cream. Refrigerate the eclairs before putting the ganache on the top.

Ganache Glaze
6 Ounces Semisweet or Bittersweet Chocolate (good quality)
6 Ounces Heavy Cream
1 Tablespoon Light Corn Syrup

Chop the chocolate into small pieces and put into a bowl. Bring to a boil the cream and corn syrup. Pour over the chocolate. Let sit for one minute then stir with a whisk to mix and melt all the chocolate. Stir gently so as not to create any air bubbles. Set aside to cool to 90 degrees F before dipping the tops of the eclairs in it.

Stripe the Eclairs with melted white chocolate.

If you make the deconstructed eclairs plate them by putting the first grid down on the plate. Pipe a nice size rosette of the pastry cream on top of it. Place another grid on the cream and pipe another rosette. Place another grid on that cream and pipe a small rosette on top of it. Put a mint leaf and decoration on top. Decorate the plate with thinned down chocolate ganache or chocolate sauce.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


I recently had a request from a friend to post my creme brule recipe. So here it is for you Linda and don't forget the water bath.

Makes 6 dishes of creme brule in 4 - 6 ounce ramekins

2 Cups Heavy Cream
1/2 Small Vanilla Bean
4 Ounces Sugar
6 Egg Yolks
Pinch of Salt

Scrape the seeds from the Vanilla Bean.
Sprinkle a tablespoon of the sugar in the bottom of a heavy saucepan. Pour the cream on top of the sugar and add the vanilla bean and seeds. Bring the mixture to a boil then turn off the heat, cover and let steep 30 minutes. This will give off more vanilla flavor from the bean.

When the mixture is almost ready whisk together the yolks, remaining sugar, and salt. Bring the cream mixture back to the boil and temper it with the yolk mixture. Tempering means to slowly add the boiling mixture to the yolk mixture. If you do not do it slowly you can scramble your yolks. When all the cream mixture is mixed with the yolk mixture strain it into a bowl.
You can bake it now but I like to refrigerate it overnight to bring out even more vanilla flavor.

When you are ready to bake the creme brule preheat your oven to 325 degrees and pour the mixture into ramekins and set them on a half sheet pan. Put them into the preheated oven and pour hot water onto the sheet pan so that the water comes up to the middle of the ramekins. This is called a water bath and will allow your creme brule to bake slowly and avoid curdling. Bake them for about 30 - 40 minutes or until they are set. They should wiggle just a little in the middle. Remove from the oven and let them cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

When ready to serve, sprinkle granulated sugar directly on the custard and burn with a blow torch. Let it cool before serving.

I serve them with assorted cookies. You can also add 1/4 Cup of Liquor to the mix before you bake it. I like to use Baily's Irish Cream. YUM!

Friday, August 08, 2008


I got this basic recipe from Ina Garten. I made a few adjustments so it isn't her original recipe but I wanted to give her credit as I started with her recipe. If you want a very flavorful lemon tea cake this is it. I have a real weakness for lemon and this one satisfies all my cravings. In fact I am eating a piece of it right now and it is pure lemon heaven. OK, I licked my fingers, had a sip of coffee and now I am ready to share the recipe with you.

8 Ounces Unsalted Butter (room temperature)
2 Cups Granulated Sugar
1/3 Cup Lemon Zest (use a microplane for fine zest)
4 Large Eggs (room temperature)
3 Cups Unbleached All Purpose Four
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/4 Cup Lemon Juice (fresh squeezed and strained)
3/4 Cup Buttermilk (room temperature)
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

For the Syrup
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 Cup Lemon Juice (fresh squeezed and strained)

For the Frosting
2 Cups Powdered Sugar (sifted)
3 Tablespoons Lemon Juice (fresh squeezed and strained)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line with parchment paper two 8 1/2" X 4 1/2" loaf pans.

Put the 2 cups sugar and the lemon zest in a bowl and rub it between your fingers to release all the lemon oil into the sugar.
Cream the butter and the 2 cups lemon-sugar in the bowl of a 5 quart stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for about 5 minutes, scraping a couple of times. Add the eggs one at a time and beat to incorporate.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine the 1/4 cup lemon juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter between the pans. There was about 1 pound 9 ounces batter per pan.

Bake for 45 minutes to one hour or until a toothpick comes out clean when checking. Do not overbake.

While the tea cake is baking combine the 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer until the syrup thickens slightly. Set aside to cool.

When the tea cakes are done remove them from the oven and let them cool for about 15 minutes before inverting them. Poke holes in the bottom of the tea cakes with a thin skewer, then ladel the syrup over the holes to soak in a little. Turn the tea cakes over and ladel the remaining syrup over the tops of the tea cakes. Let cool completely before frosting them.

While the tea cakes are cooling make the frosting. Whisk together the powdered sugar and lemon juice to make a smooth but slightly loose frosting. Pour over the cooled cakes and let sit at room temperature for the frosting to crust over.

These can be served right away or wrapped well and refrigerated. I like to eat the cake slightly chilled but it is also good at room temperature.

Great with coffee in the morning or tea in the afternoon. My husband likes it with vanilla ice cream. YUM!!

Saturday, August 02, 2008


OK, it is time for a super easy recipe. I made these yesterday
so I could put them in my husband's lunch. I had not made them in a long time and upon tasting one I was reminded of how good the old fashioned cookies are. I also have to admit, I like eating the dough before it is cooked. Come on, don't laugh, I bet you like cookie dough too!!

OATMEAL COOKIES (makes about 20 - 2 ounce cookies)

2 Cups Old Fashioned Oats (toasted)
1 1/2 Cups Unbleached All Purpose Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Salt
2 Tsp. Ground Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Ground Allspice
1/8 Tsp. Ground Cloves
3 Ounces Unsalted Butter (room temp)
3 Ounces Crisco
3/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
3/4 Cup Packed Dark Brown Sugar
2 Large Eggs (room temperature)
1 Tsp. Vanilla extract
1 Cup Raisins, or Chocolate Chips, or White Chocolate Chips, or Dried Cranberries, or Dried Apricots, etc. or a combination of two or three
1/2 Cup Walnuts (toasted and chopped)

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Put the oats on a sheetpan and toast them, stirring often, for 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Whisk together the flour, soda, baking powder, salt and spices in a medium bowl. Set aside.
Beat butter, crisco and both sugars until light and fluffy.
Add eggs and vanilla, beating to combine.
Add dry ingredients and beat until just blended.
Add the cooled oats, nuts, and raisins. Mix to combine.

Chill the dough for about an hour or overnight.
Shape into 2 ounce balls and flatten slightly with the palm of your hand.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes rotating once during baking.