Sunday, August 31, 2008

Chocolate Eclairs - Daring Bakers August

Chocolate Eclairs
First off, I want to thank Margot of Coffee and Vanilla and Maybelle's Mom of Feeding Maybelle for alerting me that a certain website has been stealing my content. Grr! That site seems to be down at this moment but it's certainly on my radar now and I'll be keeping a close eye on them. Thank you both for bringing this to my attention because I honestly wouldn't have known about this if it weren't for you two awesome ladies so these eclairs are dedicated to you gals. The food blogging community is so great, it makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. :)

It's the end of the month and that can only mean one thing - it's Daring Baker time again! When our hosts Meeta (What's for lunch Honey) and Tony (Olive Juice) announced that our challenge this month would be eclairs, I was totally psyched and ready to go. This challenge was right up my alley because I love working with pâte à choux dough. But this wasn't just any eclair recipe, this is the recipe by the King of Pâtisserie, Kitchen Emperor, Picasso of Pastry, (okay I'll stop now) Pierre Hermé. Okay, this is when I start getting butterflies in my stomach and a little intimidated.

The actual making of the dough went off without a hitch. The recipe called for one more egg than I normally use. I didn't have a pastry tip large enough to squeeze the dough into the eclair shape so I snipped the tip off a ziploc bag, which works just as well. However, I was a little confused by the baking directions, which said to prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon after baking 7 minutes. My usual standby recipe warns that opening the oven door during baking will cause the choux to deflate. After some debating, I went with my instincts and kept the oven door closed the whole time. I would have done the wooden spoon thing just to see what would happen if I hadn't been making the eclairs for a party. A part of me feels terrible for doubting the words of Pierre Herme but I certainly didn't want 20 collapsed eclairs and no eggs left in the fridge.

The pastry cream was also very straightforward and simple to make. But in my opinion, what makes this recipe really stand out is the chocolate glaze. The glaze is a 2 part process that involves first making a chocolate sauce, then using part of that chocolate sauce to make the glaze. I'm sure it would have been amazing but I didn't have enough time or chocolate to make the special sauce. Instead I just melted some chocolate, butter, heavy cream, and a little corn syrup and used that as my quick 1 minute glaze. *shrugs* Worked well enough.

The finished product was really delicious - I mean how can you go wrong with double the chocolate?

- Pipe the dough so it is about 4 inches long and roughly 3/4 inch across. I think eclairs look best when they are slender and elegant. They start to look like donuts if they're too chubby.
- Personally, I felt like the baking time in the recipe was not sufficient. My eclairs started deflating when I took them out of the oven after 20 minutes. Luckily, I was able to salvage most of them by putting them back in the oven for another 5 - 10 minutes to finish baking and reinflate.
- If you've stored the pastry cream in the fridge overnight, take a spatula and mix it up a bit to loosen it before piping.
- Either use poke a hole in the eclair and use a special filling tip (the long skinny almost-needlelike one) on a pastry bag, or cut the eclair lengthwise but do not cut all the way through and spoon or pipe the filling inside. Keeping the pastry shell intact allows for easier dipping into the chocolate glaze.
- To glaze the eclairs, hold the eclairs upside down and dip the tops in the chocolate making sure to coat the surface evenly, let any excess drip off before turning right side up. This will only work if the glaze is thin enough.
- It's best to serve the eclairs as soon as you make them, but they will keep in the fridge for maybe 1 - 2 days (they can possibly keep longer but by then the choux will get soggy).

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

Choux Pastry
1/2 cup (125g) whole milk
1/2 cup (125g) water
1 stick (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, at room temperature

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.

In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the 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 carry on stirring for a further 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 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.

The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above. Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately. You can pipe the dough and the freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets 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.

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.

Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 15 minutes. After the 15 minutes, rotate the pans from top to bottom and front to back. Bake for 5 - 10 more minutes, or until the shells are golden brown and crisp. The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.

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, preferably Velrhona Guanaja, melted
2 1/2 tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at 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 heavy-bottomed saucepan.

Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture. Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.
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 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.

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. 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. The pastry cream can be made 2 - 3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator. In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.

Chocolate Glaze (makes 1 cup or 300g)
1/3 cup (80g) heavy cream
3 1/2 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

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.

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

If the chocolate glaze is too cool (i.e. not liquid enough) you may heat it briefly in the microwave or over a double boiler. A double boiler is basically a bowl sitting over (not touching) simmering water.

It is best to glaze the eclairs after the glaze is made, but if you are pressed for time, you can make the glaze a couple days ahead of time, store it in the fridge and bring it up to the proper temperature (95 to 104 F) when ready to glaze.

Chocolate Sauce (makes 1 1/2 cups or 525 g)
4 1/2 oz (130 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup (250 g) water
1/2 cup (125 g) crème fraîche, or heavy cream
1/3 cup (70 g) sugar

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.

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.

You can make this sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for two weeks. Reheat the sauce in a microwave oven or a double boiler before using. This sauce is also great for cakes, ice-cream and tarts.

Assembling the éclairs:
Slice the éclairs horizontally, lengthwise only on one side (do not cut all the way through), using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion.

Pipe the pastry cream into the éclairs.

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. Or if your chocolate glaze is thin enough, dip the tops of the eclairs in the glaze and let the excess drip off then set aside to dry. and allow the tops to set. If you have chilled your chocolate glaze, reheat by placing it in a bowl over simmering water, stirring it gently with a wooden spoon. Do not stir too vigorously as you do not want to create bubbles.

The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Chocolate Chip Pistachio Candied Orange Cookies

Chocolate Pistachio Candied Orange Cookie
Steven and I are leaving for a much needed vacation tomorrow. Yippee! But before we go, I want to share a quick recipe.

After reading Jen's post on candied orange peels last October, I made a mental note to try this one day. I even put it on my summer to-do list (#63). Months later, as I was reading Christine's blog, Holy Basil, I saw that she too was inspired by Jen's candied orange peels and made her own candied citrus peels using tangelo and pomelo peels. Tangelo?! Brilliant! It just so happened that I received 2 tangelos in my CSA box that week. I immediately ate the tangelos and candied the peel. I'm not a big candy person so I had no interest in eating the peels straight but I couldn't wait to incorporate them into my baking. First, I added some finely chopped pieces to the blood orange olive oil cake. Then I thought of adding it to chocolate chip cookies because chocolate and orange go so well together and threw in some pistachios too because I just love the color.

Chocolate Chip Pistachio Candied Orange Cookies

2 C all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
12 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled slightly
3/4 C brown sugar, packed
1/4 C granulated sugar
1 egg
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 C semi or bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks
1/2 C pistachio halves, lightly toasted (be care to not burn)
1/3 C chopped candied orange pieces

Preheat the oven to 350 deg F.

In a bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and baking soda together. In a separate large bowl, whisk the butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, egg, and vanilla extract. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix about halfway evenly mixed then add the chocolate, nuts, and chopped candied orange, and mix until thoroughly combined and evenly distributed.

Place 1/4 C balls of dough on a parchment or silicone mat lined baking sheet. Space the dough about 3 inches apart. Using your hand press the dough ball down until it is about 3/4 in thick and about 2 1/2 inches across. The dough needs to be pressed down because the cookies do not spread much.

Bake at 350 deg F for 12 - 15 minutes. Bake until the outer edges are set and light golden brown but the middle is still soft and puffy.

Note: to make candied orange peels, head over to Jen's blog for the detailed instructions.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Pasta with Fava Beans, Prosciutto, and Shaved Parmesan

Pasta with Proscuitto, Fava Beans, and Shaved Parmesan
Last Saturday Steven and I went to the U District Farmers Market with a mission: to find fava beans. I was hoping I would still be able to find some since it's usually a springtime crop. The Udist market is always extremely crowded but it's worth it just seeing the dozens of stalls selling farm fresh produce, organic eggs, artisanal breads, pastas, honeys, and so much more. After being distracted by all the overwhelming and sometimes unusual offerings (sea beans anyone?), I finally found the only stand that still sold fava beans. Whoo! Success! Since I was going through all trouble of shelling fava beans, I figured I might as well go all out and make some fresh pasta to accompany this special treat.

While the pasta dough was resting on the counter, I enlisted Steven's help and we began shelling the beans. Fava beans are a pain in the butt. First the beans needed to be zipped out of the fuzzy outer pod, which was easy enough. Then they are blanched in boiling water for a minute, dunked in ice water and finally, the bean must be peeled (thank goodness for fingernails) and squeezed out of the waxy outer layer. In the end we only got about a half cup of beans but they were really delicious - buttery, nutty, and sweet. I quickly sauteed them with just a tiny bit of garlic and tossed them with fresh pasta, olive oil, thin pieces of prosciutto and Parmesan shaving. It was labor intensive but it was quite the treat. Light and fresh, it was the perfect summer pasta dish.

For this dish, I would really recommend making or purchasing fresh pasta if possible but dried pasta will work in a pinch. I prefer wider noodles for this dish, like pappardelle, but the narrower tagliatelle and fettuccine are also good substitutes.

Pasta with Fava Beans, Prosciutto, and Shaved Parmesan

8 ounces wide pasta noodles (pappardelle, tagliatelle, fettuccine), preferably fresh
1 pound fava beans (also called broad beans, English beans, or Windsor beans)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 - 3 ounces prosciutto, cut into bite size pieces
2 ounces Parmesan (or Romano) cheese, shaved and 1 ounce grated (about 1/4 C)
Extra virgin olive oil
Squeeze of lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Shelling Favas:
First shell the beans from the fuzzy outer pod by opening it with your fingers. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Meanwhile prepare a bowl of ice cold water. Add the shelled beans and boil for a minute. Drain and plunge into ice water. When the beans are cold, drain them. Peel and slip the beans out of the waxy coating. Use your fingers to make an incision in the coating if needed. Place the shelled beans in a bowl and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for pasta. If using fresh pasta, it will cook in 1 to 2 minutes, whereas dried pasta will take 9 - 11. Time your prep and cooking accordingly depending on which kind you use.

Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the fava beans and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute and set aside.

After the pasta has finished cooking, toss the pasta with a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, the garlic sauteed fava beans, grated Parmesan, thin slices of prosciutto, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Add the Parmesan shavings on top and serve.

Serves 2

To make fresh pasta, I follow Marcella Hazan's recipe:

Fresh Pasta
1 C flour
2 large eggs

First make a mountain of flour on your work surface, then create a crater in the center. Add your eggs in the crater. Use a fork and beat the eggs in the crater incorporating a little bit of the flour at a time. Once the egg mixture begins to look like a batter, you can start incorporating more of the flour into the dough. After incorporating all the flour, you will end up with a dough. If the dough is still sticky, add some more flour. Knead by pushing with the heel of your palm, fold the dough in half, give it a half turn, and repeat the process for 8 minutes or until it feels smooth. Marcella did not specify to let the dough rest but I let the dough rest (covered) for 20ish minutes.

Cut the dough into 3 equal portions. Take one portion of the dough and press it flat, then run it through the pasta machine on the widest setting. Fold the dough in thirds and run the narrow end into the machine again. Repeat twice more. Do this to the remaining 2 portions of dough. Now you should have 3 portions of dough that have been passed through the widest setting 3 times each. Go up one setting, and run each portion of dough through twice, but do not fold in thirds this time, just run it straight through twice. Repeat with the two other pieces of dough. Go up one setting, and repeat again. My machine has 7 settings and I stopped on setting #3 for fettuccine because I want my noodles a little on the thicker side. After running the pasta through the #3 setting twice more, run it through the fettuccine cutter (the wider cutter). Separate any noodles that did not get cut all the way through. Lightly toss the noodles in some flour.

Bring a pot of water to a boil, salt the water, then add the pasta. Cook for 1 1/2 - 2 minutes or until the pasta is al dente. Drain the pasta reserving some of the pasta water to thin out the sauce if necessary.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake

Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake
When I first envisioned this cake, I pictured the red blood orange juice mixing with the yellow eggs creating a cake with a golden orange crumb. Then when I cut open my blood orange, I was shocked to see it had a dark purple, nearly black flesh! It was a little scary looking! (After some Wiki research, I think I may have had a Moro blood orange.) Anyway, I soldiered on. I poured out my olive oil and realized that it was green. Now red + yellow = orange, but purple + green + yellow = ... ehh... not to be overly dramatic or anything but the grayish green-brown batter looked pretty darn vile. Looks aren't everything right? At least it still smelled nice with the addition of the orange zest and smelled even better after it came out of the oven. The cracked brown exterior was really lovely and even though the interior wasn't the color I was hoping for, it was really delicious. Who knew olive oil would be so good in a cake! The olive oil made the cake so moist, tender, and heart healthy too! :) I'm sure it would look much better if you use an olive oil that was more on the yellow side and a blood orange that's more red than purple.

Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake
Adapted from Pure Desserts by Alice Medrich

2 C all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
3/4 C sugar
1 1/2 tsp orange zest
3 eggs
1/2 C fruity olive oil
2/3 C orange juice (blood orange, cara cara navel, or you can even substitute ruby red grapefruit juice)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper or butter and flour the pan.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a separate bowl rub the sugar together with the orange zest to release the fragrant oils.

In a blender add the eggs and orange sugar. Blend until it is light yellow and thick, then slowly drizzle in the olive oil as if you were making a mayonnaise. Then blend in the orange juice. Pour this liquid mixture into the dry ingredients and gently fold the batter together until no streaks of flour remain.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake at 350 deg F until a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 50 minutes.

Remove the cake from the oven and cool on a metal rack for 10 minutes then remove from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.


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