Sunday, 31 August 2008

Daring Bakers August Challenge: Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs

Yesterday was the last day I could possibly make August's Daring Bakers challenge. I had all the ingredients in the fridge, but had resigned myself to the fact I probably wouldn't make them. The kitchen hasn't been my favourite place since I found out I'm pregnant, the exhaustion and nauseous kills the fun, so I wasn't expecting to jump out of bed and feel like hours of whisking, beating, stirring and baking but I did! And, I am glad I did, these are so delicious! And it wasn't too complicated.

Tony Tahhan & Meeta set this months yummy chocolate-y challenge. Following our Daring Bakers forums this month, it seemed like a few people struggled so I was a little nervous but it all came together quite nicely. Now, I know my little creations don't look great, but I blame that on not having a big enough nozzle for my piping bag so I struggled to make the choux pastry into decent shapes (you should see the 'finger' style, eclairs ones - ha!). Yes, they don't look great but they tasted perfect if I may say so myself.

I was planning to make the pastry cream vanilla rather than chocolate but I had a visitor chatting to me whilst I was making these so I didn't pay close attention and suddenly realised I had made chocolate pastry cream! I'm glad I did to be honest, cos this component was my favourite - yum. Although this was my favourite, this pastry cream also annoyed me the most as I could not get it thick enough to pipe nicely into the choux pastries. Eventually I added some thick whipped cream which helped a little, but not enough. Its ok, people don't realise till they take a bite and yummy chocolate cream oozes all over them. Fun to watch if you ask me.

Please find the recipe below and if you want to check out my fellow Daring Bakers please do so here.

(Oh, I forgot to mention, I followed the recipe to the letter, but I halved the chocolate sauce ingredients at the end and it was plenty for the 7 tablespoons needed for the glaze).

Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs
Cream Puff Dough (see below for recipe), fresh and still warm

1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Divide the oven into thirds by
positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with waxed or parchment paper.

2) Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough. Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 41/2 inches (about 11 cm) chubby fingers. Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff. The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.

3) Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip the handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking time should be approximately 20 minutes.

Assembling the éclairs:
• Chocolate glaze (see below for recipe)
• Chocolate pastry cream (see below for recipe)
1) Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside the bottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.

2) The glaze should be barely warm to the touch (between 95 – 104 degrees F or 35 – 40 degrees C, as measured on an instant read thermometer). Spread the glaze over the tops of the éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the bottoms with the pastry cream.

3) Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottoms with enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry cream and wriggle gently to settle them.

Cream Puff Dough
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

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

2) 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 carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough will be very soft and smooth.

3) Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your handmixer 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 all 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.

4) The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.

Chocolate Pastry Cream
2 cups (500g) whole milk
4 large egg yolks
6 tbsp (75g) sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, melted
2½ tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1) In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy‐bottomed saucepan.

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

3) 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 stop) 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.

4) 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.

5) 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 instalments. 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.

Chocolate Glaze
1/3 cup (80g) heavy cream
3½ oz (100g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 tsp (20 g) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
7 tbsp (110 g) Chocolate Sauce (recipe below), warm or at room temperature

1)In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.

2) Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.

Chocolate Sauce
4½ oz (130 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup (250 g) water
½ cup (125 g) crème fraîche, or heavy cream
1/3 cup (70 g) sugar

1) Place all the ingredients into a heavy‐bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly. Then reduce the heat to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.

2) It may take 10‐15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon.

Sathya-rating ****

Friday, 29 August 2008

Fragrant Custard Apple Cake is a great Australian website linked to a local newspaper which I enjoy having a look at from time to time when I feel adventurous or like a challenge.

I found this recipe sometime ago and when my sister came over from Melbourne recently and lunch was to be at our house, I thought this would be the perfect dessert as she cannot eat chocolate.

I never really made up my mind about this cake, I didn’t really enjoy making it as there wasn’t enough batter to spread it on the bottom of the pan, then pour on the custard and then spread on more batter. Secondly, ‘spreading’ batter on runny custard is not easy with a thick batter. I ended up adding some of the left over egg whites into the batter to make it runny and just putting spoonfuls on top of the custard and hoping for the best. When it finally came out of the oven it looked perfect and delicious, the sliced apple and spiced sugar helped I think.

Once we let it cool a little and sliced it into chunks and served it with cream everyone was very happy and enjoyed it. Personally, I was expecting a layer of cake, layer of custard and another lay of apple cake, but the custard kinda went into the cake. You couldn’t differentiate the custard at all. Some bites were moist and custardy and others were just ordinary cake. If I make this again, I think I would add some of the spices to the batter and possibly put some apples slices on top of the batter before the custard goes in. Anyway, it lovely, and everyone enjoyed it and it was lovely to sit around the table with the whole family.

For the custard
1 cup milk
3 large egg yolks
55g castor sugar
30g plain flour
2 tsp vanilla extract

For the cake:
200g soft butter
110g castor sugar
2 eggs
225g self-raising flour, sifted
2 small unpeeled apples, cored and thinly sliced (about 140g each)
1 tbsp butter, melted
2 tsp castor sugar, extra
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp allspice
¼ tsp ginger
¼ tsp cloves
¼ tsp cardamom
½ tsp cinnamon

For the custard
Place milk in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove.

Whisk egg yolks and sugar in a small bowl until thick then add flour and whisk until smooth. Pour hot milk onto egg yolk mixture and stir until smooth. Return mixture to saucepan and stir over low heat until mixture comes to the boil. Stir constantly for 1-2 minutes until thick then remove from heat, stir in vanilla and chill, covered in the fridge.

For the cake
Pre-heat oven to 180C.

Combine butter and sugar in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Fold in flour.

Spread half the mixture into a 22cm greased and base-lined cake tin, add custard and smooth with a spatula.

Add spoonfuls of remaining cake mix and spread carefully with a spatula to cover custard.

Arrange apples on top of cake mixture and brush with melted butter. Combine sweet spice mix with extra castor sugar and sprinkle over apples.

Bake for 60 or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Cool in pan before turning out.

Sathya-rating ***

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Cucumber & Feta Dip

I've mentioned several other food bloggers on here, I think, many of them I admire and enjoy reading and seeing what they're up to. David Lebovitz is an amazing blogger, writer and chef who lives in Paris and keeps me regularly entertained with all sorts of interesting recipes and tales. A recipe he recently blogged about caught my eye, I printed it out and made it the next day for a big family lunch to celebrate my sister being in Adelaide for the weekend.

Now, David mentions how fantastic the cucumber & feta dip below is, and I was expecting a lot as all the ingredient are up there in my favourites list but you should have seen everyone wolf this dip down! It was sensational. I will be making this again and again!

I served Joanne Weir's cucumber and feta dip with triangles of pita bread brushed with olive oil and paprika and crisped them under the grill for a few minutes.

1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced into pea-sized pieces
coarse salt
8 ounces (225g) feta cheese (see Note)
1/4 cup (60ml) olive oil
2-3 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
freshly ground black pepper
1 small red onion, peeled and finely-diced
1 tablespoon (each) chopped fresh mint, parsley and fresh dill

Place the cucumber pieces in a colander, mix with a light sprinkling salt, and let drain 30 minutes to an hour, shaking the colander from time to time.

Crumble the feta into a bowl and mash together with the olive oil, lemon juice, water, and a few turns of black pepper.

Mix in the cucumbers, onions, and herbs. Taste, and add more salt if desired.

Sathya-rating *****

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Easy week night dinner - tom yum soup

I haven't been around much sorry, cooking and inspiration in the kitchen hasn't been the easiest thing for me at the moment. Hopefully one day soon I can explain. However, this is something I managed to whip up nice and quickly after a busy day at the office - tom yum soup. You can do the same with laksa (just use laksa paste and coconut milk instead of tom yum paste and stock). The ingredients don't matter too much, like most soups you can chuck in whatever you have in the house and think would suit. If you don't know tom yum its a sour spicy soup that is delicious!

(makes 2-3 serves)
2 tsps of ready-made tom yum paste
half cucumber, sliced
100g beancurd, cubed
handful bean sprouts
2 tbs fresh coriander leaves
500ml-1 lt stock
2 lime leaves, finely sliced
100 g oyster mushrooms, cleaned
spring onions, chopped
200g asian noodles, prepared according to packet instructions

Bring a large pot of stock to the boil, add the tom yum paste, lime leaves and mushrooms and allow to simmer for a few minutes.

Place the noodles in 2 large bowls and top with cucumber, bean sprouts and spring onions and ladle in the soup mixture to cover everything. Top with coriander leaves and serve.

Sathya-rating ****