Sunday, August 31, 2008

Eclairs - Darking Bakers' August Challenge

This month we were challenged by Tony Tahhan and MeetaK to make Pierre Herme eclairs. You can see the recipe and technique on their blogs. I've made eclairs before, but it's always fun to have an excuse to make a dessert, and to try variations on a recipe. I waited until the last possible minute and made these last night! The pate a choux was easy - I like the food processor method. And I got 22 little eclairs - very close to what the recipe predicts. That said, I agree with other posters that they were too eggy and too soft. I don't know that there is any particular benefit from adding milk - so I will stick to my old recipe - four ingredients, perfect and crisp every time - 1 cup water, 1 stick butter, 1 cup flour, 4 eggs.

I elected to do my variation on the pastry cream filling - I added a few tablespoons of hazelnut praline to the pastry cream as it was cooling down. This is a very good recipe and I will make it again, though I have a tendency to want to shortcut the tempering process and nearly scramble the eggs everytime. Ah well, that is what the seive is for, no?

As far as the chocolate sauce, all I can say is hmmm. There are a damn lot of steps and ingredients to get something that is no better than ganache. OK, maybe that's not fair - is anything better than ganache? But you know. I would be interested to hear what others think, but it seems like a darn lot of steps to get essentially a chocolate ganache. I kept waiting for the secret to reveal itself, but I got nothing - add water and then boil it off? How about we start with heavy cream instead? Ah well, that's why these challenges are so fascinating - you get other people's view of the world!
I think I will definintely make the pastry cream again, and make eclairs more often, but i will use my own pate a choux recipe and a simple ganache for glazing.

Friday, August 29, 2008

White Chocolate Ginger Ice Cream for Dessert

I've been reading blogs all along, even while claiming to be too busy/tired/out of memory to post anything. Finally got inspired (read, overcome with guilt thinking I am a slacker) and decided to cook, photograph, and eat, in that order. The mandarin orange bundt cake came out much better the second time, but I still have no photos for that, so more to come later.

Last week I had a good but ultimately less-than-satisfying crab roll for lunch - clearly, more crab was in order to scratch that itch. Dilemma - to buy the ready to go crab meat out of the shell, or buy the whole crab and pick the meat out? Thank god I chose the latter - apparently the guys a the fish counter wanted to reward me for making the right decision cause when I told them I wanted two whole cooked crab, they didn't pull them off the ice in the case, no, they pulled them out of the boiling water steaming hot!! Oh man oh man oh man. The crab was buttery and sweet - as good as I have ever had.
Crab cakes for dinner, with a tomato salad and fresh corn on the side. As Homer would say - can't talk, eating . . . .

For dessert I wanted something rich, but with fruit. So, I searched David Lebovitz's site for an interesting ice cream recipe and came up with the White Chocolate Ginger Ice Cream - simplified as a non-custard ice cream, with fresh figs. . . . .and balsamic vinegar. . . . . A little blurry, yes, but no less delicious!

White Chocolate Ginger Ice Cream

About 1 quart

2-inch piece fresh ginger

½ cup sugar1 cup milk
1 t. vanilla extract

2 cups heavy cream - divided

4 ounces white chocolate, chopped

1. Slice the ginger into very thin rounds, cover it with 1 cup of the heavy cream in a medium saucepan, bring to a simmer, then turn the heat off. Add the sugar and stir to combine. Let steep for at least 30 minutes, preferably in the fridge to cool it off.
2. Put the chopped white chocolate in a large bowl. Warm up the other cup of heavy cream until very warm but do not simmer or boil. Pour over the chocolate and stir to melt the chocolate. Add the cup of milk to this mixture and then stir in the vanilla. Put this in the fridge too.
3. After the two mixtures have cooled, strain the ginger cream mixture through a sieve into the white chocolate cream. Discard the ginger. Put the combined mix into an ice cream maker and then freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

More eating . . . .

Dungeness crab roll from Pike Place Chowder

Orange ricotta brioche with currants - the Dahlia Bakery . . . .

Corn fritters from - thanks Kim!

Mandarin Orange bundt cake - no link, it was a disaster! But I think I know how to fix it. . . .

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What I've Been Eating

This is just a gratuitous pic to distract you from the lack of current ones . . . .

OK - I KNOW that 99.9% of blogging is the photos, but the one memory card died and the other one is full of wedding cake pictures and I just don't want to lose track of all the amazing stuff I am still managing to eat, even if I can't take pictures of it.

Roast pork with a blueberry-white-wine reduction. Green salad. Fresh corn.

Blackberries and cream and cake - layered together for a spontaneous triffle.

Raspberries - warm from the sun and cool from the shade.

Shrimp sauteed with garlic and butter and olive oil - parsley on top, fresh corn on the side.

Tree- ripened apricots - I've only had three, but I think they'll hold me until next year!.
Green curry rice with cream and corn and shrimp. OMG - really could eat this until I am sick!

Carne asada (steak) and carnitas (pork) tacos with green salsa from the taco truck in Monroe - hot and spicy and salty and perfect!

Insalata caprese with lots of fresh basil.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Summer Berry Tartlets

I couldn’t commit to just one berry – I’m pretty sure if I had to pick a favorite berry, it would be blackberries, but I figure there’s still time in August and September to use those – so I went with raspberries and blueberries. These are variations on a couple of recipes, and make a perfect little dessert buffet, or breakfast, or whatever . . . . I am a huge fan of dessert and coffee for breakfast, and these seem almost healthy if you think about it. Heee!

OK – true confession time – I am going to give you the recipe for a fabulous all-butter pie crust that you can use for the tartlet shells, but I do not use it for these tartlets – I buy frozen pre-made tartlet shells (raw) and bake them fresh right before I assemble the tartlets. The shells are GREAT, and this is one of those “life’s too short” sort of things . . . .

Raspberry Tartlets

Tartlet shells (recipe below)
Pastry cream (recipe below)
Fresh raspberries

Mint leaves
Sweetened whipped cream

Assembly: Prebake the tartlet shells – approx 12 minutes at 400 degrees F. Cool. Fill with pastry cream. Top with raspberries. Garnish with whipped cream and mint leaves. The really swanky among you might want to brush the baked shells with melted dark or white chocolate, for an additional flavor hit. Also, brushing with chocolate ensures that the shells stay crisp if you want to assemble them a bit ahead of time.

Double Blueberry Tartlets

Tartlet shells
4 cups fresh blueberries
¾ cup sugar
3 T. cornstarch
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. butter

Thin strips of lemon zest
Sweetened whipped cream

Assembly: Prebake the tartlet shells as above and cool. Take half of the blueberries and cook them with the sugar and cornstarch until they are cooked and thick, low heat, approximately 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the lemon juice and the butter. Let cool a little bit, then stir in the fresh blueberries and use this to fill the tartlet shells. Garnish with whipped cream and strips of lemon zest.

Pastry Cream

1 cup milk
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 t. vanilla
1/2 cup well-chilled heavy cream

Scald the milk. In a clean pan whisk together the egg yolks, the sugar, the cornstarch and the vanilla. Whisk in the milk and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Simmer for 3 minutes -- it will be very thick --transfer it to a bowl and chill it, its surface covered with plastic wrap, for 4 hours or until it is firm. (May be made one day ahead.) Beat the heavy cream until it holds stiff peaks. Whisk the pastry cream until it is smooth, whisk in half the whipped cream, fold in the remaining cream gently but thoroughly.

All Butter Pie Crust

2 cups flour
12 tablespoons chilled butter, cut in bits
1/2 t. salt
5 tablespoons ice water (more as needed)

Pulse flour, butter and salt in a food processor until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the ice water and pulse until the mixture just clumps together. Form into two balls, flatten each slightly and wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper and refrigerate at least 15 minutes until firm. If you really need to use these right away, you can probably get away with it if you roll the crust out between sheets of waxed paper or plastic, or flour the rolling surface really well.

Makes one double crust, or use in tartlet shells – roll out to about ¼” thick and cut into rounds to fit into 3” or 4” tartlet shells.

The best part about this recipe is that the formula can be adapted for any quantity. Just use 2 tablespoons butter for every 1/3 cup flour. So a small, single crust works out very well with 1 cup flour and 6 tablespoons butter, while a larger single crust would take a stick of butter and 1 1/3 cups flour.