Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Cherry Almond Lamingtons

For the May challenge Marcellina from Marcellina in Cucina dared us to make Lamingtons. An Australian delicacy that is as tasty as it is elegant.

These fancy little cakes are a bit of a project, but not too bad all around.  Most Lamingtons are dainty little squares and looked too tedious for my mood on baking day, so I opted to use a biscuit cutter to make something like a Little Debbie snack cake.  These were so sweet and fancy, I couldn't help but think they tasted like Christmas!


In the words of our host:  "The classic Australian Lamington is a cube of vanilla sponge cake dipped in chocolate icing then coated with desiccated coconut...It is said that the cakes were named after Lord Lamington who was the Governor of Queensland, Australia from 1896 to 1901. Stories abound as to why the cakes came about. I like the one that tells of Lord Lamington’s maid-servant accidentally dropping a freshly baked sponge cake into some melted chocolate. Apparently Lord Lamington disliked wastage so he suggested coating the chocolate coated cake in desiccated coconut to avoid messy fingers."

This recipe was adapted from Sprinklebake's Cherry Chip Sponge Cake with Almond Whip.  For the original Daring Baker's challenge recipe, you can find the challenge PDF here.

Cherry Almond Lamingtons
Makes 6 round cakes and a mess of scraps, or about 15 square cakes.

Cherry Sponge Cake

4 eggs at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons heavy cream, room temp
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pink gel food color
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
10 ounce jar stemless maraschino cherries, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a jelly-roll sheet pan about 17" by 12" (a bit smaller of a pan is fine too) with shortening and line the bottom with parchment paper.
 
In a large bowl, beat eggs with a hand mixer on high for 5 minutes until light.

Add cream and almond extract to the whipped eggs and mix briefly.
 
Gradually add the flour, baking powder and salt to the liquid ingredients. Mix until well combined. Mix in the pink gel food color a little at a time until the desired shade is achieved, about 1/8 teaspoon. 

Sprinkle the 1 tablespoon flour over the chopped cherries and stir. Fold the flour-coated cherries into the sponge batter and pour your batter into the prepared pan (it will be a very thin layer). 

Bake for about 13-15 minutes (meanwhile, make your almond buttercream and set aside).  The cake is done when the center is set and the cake springs back when pressed in the center.  Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before turning it out onto a large wire rack to cool completely.

Almond Buttercream

1/2 cup room temp unsalted butter
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon milk
1 small teaspoon almond extract
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup

Mix butter, salt, milk and almond extract on high for one minute.  Scrape the bowl and add the powdered sugar.  Mix on low until combined and crumbly.  Mix on medium for one minute until smooth.  Add corn syrup and mix a half minute.  Then beat on high for about one minute until soft and fluffy.



Assembly:

Trim the edges of the cake with a serrated knife so that the rough edges are straight. Cut the cake into 2 rectangles of equal size.

Frost one of the sections of cake with almond buttercream.  Set the other layer of cake on the frosted cake.  Press the top using the flat bottom of a sheet pan (to level it) and chill for at least an hour or overnight.

White Chocolate Glaze and Coconut Coating

14 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
8 ounces white chocolate pieces
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

On a sheet pan in a layer no more than 1/4 inch thick, toast the coconut at 325F for about 10 minutes until lightly browned in some areas.  Stir halfway through the cooking time to ensure the coconut at the corners does not burn.

In a double boiler, heat white chocolate, butter and milk and whisk until they melt and are smooth.  Take it off the heat and whisk in the powder sugar.  The glaze should be the consistency of honey.  If it's too thin, chill it for about 20 minutes or so.

Cut your cakes into big squares, little squares, rectangles, circles...whatever you like.

Dip each cake into the icing.  Drain or scrape off excess.  While wet, roll the coated cake in coconut.  Set on parchment paper to cool.  Chill overnight if possible.  These cakes are better after they have sat in the fridge for a day.  They will keep for several days in the fridge.

Enjoy!

Monday, April 27, 2015

French Onion Fugazza Bread

For the month of April, Rachael of pizzarossa and Sawsan of Chef in Disguise took us on a trip to Italy. They challenged us to try our hands at making focaccia from scratch.

Thick focaccia-like crust topped with a condensed french onion stew and a touch of gruyere cheese.

I veered a little from the classic focaccia recipe this month and went for a similar bread called fugazza. It's a little more similar to pizza, though the crust is a thicker and more focaccia-like.

In the words of our hosts: "The word 'fugazza' is an Argentinian derivation of the Italian word 'focaccia' – indicative of the prominent Italian population in that South American country and of the influence of Italian cuisine there. Very similar to an Italian focaccia, it’s usually cooked in a cast iron skillet and is generally thicker than an Italian focaccia."

Check out the color on that bottom crust!  To achieve this, be sure to preheat your pizza stone for at least twenty minutes before baking.  If you were to use a cast iron skillet, you could preheat that, too.
This recipe is my interpretation of this month's Daring Baker's Focaccia challenge.  You can find the original PDF recipe here.

French Onion Fugazza Bread

Fugazza Dough:
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1⁄2 cup lukewarm milk
1⁄2 cup lukewarm water
2 1⁄2 cups bread flour
1⁄4 teaspoon salt

Stir yeast and sugar into the milk and water in a small bowl and let it sit for about ten minutes until foamy.


Combine flour and salt in a large bowl, make a well in the center and add the yeast mixture.
Stir flour into the yeast mixture until the dough clumps in a mass around the spoon.  Turn onto a well-floured surface and knead for about 8 or 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.  As you knead, add sprinkles of flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to your hands.

Oil a large bowl and add the dough, turning to coat in oil.  Cover and let rise until doubled in size (1 to 2 hours).

Meanwhile, make your caramelized onions.


This process is simple, but it takes time...1 to 1 1/2 hours!




Caramelized Onions:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 large onions, thinly sliced (I used sweet Vidalia)
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 small bay leaf
1 fresh thyme sprig
Pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup beef broth
1/4 cup red wine

Melt the stick of butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, salt and pepper and cook, stirring here and there, over medium heat until the onions are very soft and caramel brown.  This will take about one hour to one and a half hours. Add the broth and wine and raise the heat to bring it to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the liquid has evaporated and the onions are nearly dry, about 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaf and thyme sprig and set aside.


Preheat the oven to 450F with a pizza stone set on a rack in the lower third of the oven.  

Prepare:
1 1/2 cups gruyere cheese, grated
Pinch of dried oregano and black pepper

Press your dough out on a piece of parchment paper to about 14 inches round, ½ inch thick.  Spread with caramelized onions, leaving a 1 inch border at the edges.  Cover onions with cheese and sprinkle with a bit of dried oregano and black pepper.

Slide the dough onto the hot pizza stone, leaving it on the parchment paper.  Bake until golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Slice into wedges and serve.

Enjoy!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Mixed Fruit Tarte Tatin with Homemade Creme Fraiche

For the March Daring bakers’ challenge, Korena from Korena in the Kitchen taught us that some treats are best enjoyed upside down. She  challenged us to make a tarte tatin from scratch.


I thought our challenge host's description of a tarte tatin was really perfect:  "This classic French dessert is basically the apple pie version of an upside-down cake: apples are caramelized in sugar in a saucepan, covered with pastry and baked, and then inverted on a plate to serve. It’s a great example of the magic of caramelized sugar: the apples take on a deep, rich mahogany color and become infused with the complex flavors of a well-cooked caramel, and the crisp puff pastry base also becomes practically candied with caramel at the edges, resulting in a fantastic mix of soft, crunchy, and chewy textures."


For my tatin, I chose to replace the classic apples with banana, apricot and mandarin oranges...all of which melt together in a delicious caramel.  I especially enjoy the oranges as they basically disintegrate into the caramel, which is flavored with a touch of cinnamon and rum.  Yum!  Though my favorite part of this dessert is the homemade creme fraiche.  It's insanely easy to make and super creamy and fancy.  This whole sweet treat is pretty easy to accomplish, actually.  I made two this month and both were done in time for breakfast because I always make my crust the night before.

Above you can see how it's made.  The filling is cooked on the stove top until caramelized.  The filling is then topped with a layer of dough.  Once it's baked, the whole thing is turned onto a platter and the top crust becomes a bottom crust.


Korena told this little story about the tatin's origin. Maybe it's a true story, maybe not, but it's kind of fun:

"The tart is named after the Tatin sisters, who ran a hotel near Paris in the 1880s. Apparently, one day one of the sisters forgot to put a bottom crust on her apple pie, but instead of the disaster she was expecting to pull out of the oven, she ended up with a dessert so loved by the hotel guests that it became the hotel’s signature dish."

Korena's apple tatin looks amazing, by the way.  You can find the PDF file for this challenge here.

Mixed Fruit Tarte Tatin with Homemade Crème Fraiche

Homemade Crème Fraiche
1 cup heavy whipping cream
½ cup sour cream

Stir together until blended (shaking in a covered mason jar is easiest).  Let sit, covered, at room temperature overnight.  Refrigerate after 10 hours.  Before serving, add a pinch of sugar or two and whip for several minutes using an electric mixer on high until thickened and fluffy like whipped cream.


Flaky Tart Crust
For one 10 inch tart.

1 3/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cold shortening, cut into pieces
1/3 cup cold unsalted butter
1/3 cup ice water

Whisk together flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Drop in shortening and quickly grate butter directly into the bowl using a cheese grater. Using your fingers or a pastry cutter, work butter and shortening into the flour mixture until it's broken down into course, chunky crumbs. Stop mixing when the largest crumb is about the size of a pea.

Using a fork, quickly stir in 1/3 cup of very cold ice water.  If needed, stir in more water in sprinkles until most of the flour has been picked up by the dough. Turn the rough dough and crumbs onto a floured surface. Fold the dough over on itself (a very gentle knead) just until the dough holds together in a mass, about 10 times. Do not over mix! You will be able to see bits of butter in the dough and this is a good thing.

Shape the dough into a disk (like a burger patty). Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour before use. The dough will keep in the fridge for a full day, or you may freeze the dough for up to 3 months. Bring back to a thawed chill before rolling.


Tarte Tatin
Makes one 10 inch tart.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 large ripe bananas, peeled and halved lengthwise
1 cup halved canned apricots
1 cup canned mandarin oranges
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon dark rum
Flour, for your work surface
1 recipe of flaky tart crust
Crème Fraiche, for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Melt butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Stir in sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally (but do not stir), until the mixture browns lightly, about 3 minutes.  Do not over-brown, and if it burns, start over!

Arrange the fruit in the skillet, overlapping as needed. If it's going to take you a minute to arrange the fruit, remove the pan from the stove while you do this.  Cook without stirring for 3 minutes. Drizzle vanilla and rum over the fruit and cook until the liquid has thickened, about 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Roll out the tart crust 1/4 inch thick using a floured rolling pin on a well-floured surface.  Cut the dough into a circle by tracing a 10-inch skillet or lid.

Place the round of crust on top of the fruit, and slice some vents into the center of the dough. Tuck the edges of the dough in around the filling a little. Transfer to the oven. Bake until the crust is golden brown and puffed, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and carefully invert the tart onto a serving plate.  To invert the tart, cover the skillet with a serving plate and turn over in one quick motion, then slowly lift the skillet. If the fruit has shifted, use a spatula to move things into place.

Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled with dollops of crème fraiche.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Siopao {Asian Stuffed Buns}

The February Daring Bakers’ challenge is hosted by Julie of One-Wall Kitchen. She challenged us to an easy, simple filled bun using no-knead dough.

I love a savory baking challenge, especially one that is new to me, easy to make, and something that kids and grown-ups love equally! Siopao literally means "steam buns" and if you frequent Asian markets you've likely seen them in the food court. Julie's recipe is for baked rolls, and I wondered how the baking would affect the texture of the bread. Steam buns are incredibly tender, and those that I've eaten have been stuffed with spiced pork. These baked Siopao were also incredibly tender, and I filled mine with pork laab, a minced meat salad that is crazy delicious and packed with traditional Thai flavor. My family went crazy for these! Everyone wants me to make them every day now, which to be honest, I could probably accomplish even on a work night if I made the filling ahead of time. The dough is a no-knead recipe, so you could mix it up and leave it sit in the fridge for the day. Dinner could be on the table in an hour with little active work, after work :)





I served our Siopao with an Asian cabbage salad, and you can find a recipe for it in my cookbook. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we did!  For Julie's Daring Baker recipe, you can find the challenge PDF here!


Siopao

Savory Siopao Filling
Servings: 12

4 tablespoons uncooked rice
1 tablespoon oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound course ground pork
1 tablespoon tamari sauce
½ tablespoon fish sauce
One shallot, minced
Juice of one lime
1 jalapeno, minced (and seeded, if desired to reduce spice)
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water

Toast the rice in a hot dry skillet, stirring often, until nutty and brown.  Grind or pound into a course powder.


Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat, then add garlic and cook for a minute.  Add pork, tamari sauce, fish sauce and shallot.  Cook until the pork is cooked through.  Stir in lime juice, jalapeno, cilantro and toasted rice.

Place cornstarch and water in a small bowl and stir with a fork or small whisk until the cornstarch is dissolved.

Stir the cornstarch mixture into the filling and cook for a minute until thickened. Remove from the heat and cool completely before making the rolls.
  
Siopao Rolls
Servings: 12 large buns

2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon salt
4 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg, beaten, for the egg-wash

Mix yeast, water, sugar, melted butter, and salt together in a large mixing bowl.  Slowly mix in flour until it's fully incorporated and you have a shaggy, very tacky dough, but not wet and sticky.

Cover the bowl with greased plastic wrap and let it rise for about an hour in a warm place (such as in a cold oven with the light turned on) until doubled.

Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a floured surface. Sprinkle some flour over the top of the dough and fold it over on itself several time until you can shape it into a smooth ball.  Divide the dough into about 12 equal pieces.

On a floured surface, roll each piece into a ball and flatten it into a disc about 6 inches wide.


Place a walnut sized mound of filling into the center of the disc, wrap the dough around the filling, and firmly pinch it closed around the top of the filling.

Place filled buns, seam side down, on a baking sheet and loosely cover them with plastic wrap. Let them rest for 1 hour. 

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Brush your egg wash on the top of each bun. Bake the buns for about 20 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Esterhazy Cake

For the month of January, Jelena from A Kingdom for a Cake invited us to start this year with a dreamy celebration cake. She challenged us to make the Esterhazy cake a.k.a the Hungarian dream. What better way to start the year than with a sweet dream?



This month's challenge was exactly that:  A challenge!  It took me many hours over the course of three days to tackle this one.  And a dozen eggs. And 3 pounds of hazelnuts. And 3 sticks of butter.  It's a rich one, and is a rewarding experience both to make and to serve at the table.

A brief story behind this cake:  In the 19th century, a confectioner from Budapest baked and named the Esterhazy Torte after the wealthy Prince Paul III Anton Esterhazy de Galantha, a member of the Esterhazy dynasty and diplomat of the Austrian Empire.

I am loving all these ancient recipes that are coming down the pipe in the Daring Bakers club!  You know it's a good one when people are still talking about it 200 years later...








Esterhazy Cake
Recipe Source:  http://foodforthought-jelena.blogspot.co.uk/2010/07/esterhazi-torta.html
Servings: 10-12

Ingredients:


HAZELNUT SPONGE CAKE

12 large egg whites
1 cup superfine baking sugar
Seeds scraped from one half of a vanilla bean
2 1/2 cups ground hazelnuts
2/3 cup all-purpose flour

HAZELNUT CREAM

12 large egg yolks
1 cup superfine baking sugar
Seeds scraped from one half of a vanilla bean
1 1/3 cups butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups toasted ground hazelnuts

APRICOT JAM GLAZE
3 tablespoons apricot jam, strained
1 teaspoon water

CHOCOLATE AND NUT DECORATION
¼ cup dark chocolate
1 teaspoon oil
1 cup roughly chopped hazelnuts

WHITE ICING
About 3 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons oil
4 teaspoons lemon juice
About 4 tablespoons hot water

Directions:

PREPARING THE HAZELNUTS

Place 6 cups of whole hazelnuts on a sheet pan in a cold oven.  Increase the temperature to 350F and bake for about 15 minutes until a nice aroma starts to come out of the oven and the nuts have darkened.  Begin checking them often.  Continue until their skins turn very dark brown and the hazelnut 'meat' becomes a caramel color.  Cool completely before grinding/chopping in a food processor as needed for the recipe.

CAKE LAYERS

Preheat the oven to 325F.  Cut parchment paper into five squares large enough to draw a 10 inch circle on the paper.  Trace a 10 inch circle on each piece of parchment.

With an electric mixer on high, beat the egg whites and vanilla seeds while gradually adding the sugar.  Beat for about 5 minutes until stiff peaks form.  Turn the mixer to the lowest speed and add in the hazelnuts and flour and mix until barely combined.  Fold with a rubber spatula until no white streaks remain in the batter.

 Flip one piece of parchment over (you can see the pencil on the other side) and place it on the flat bottom of a sheet pan.   Evenly spread one-fifth of the sponge cake batter in the circle.

Bake for 14 minutes until soft but not sticky.  Repeat with each sheet of parchment, baking each round of cake on the flat bottom of a cooled sheet pan.  You will have five rounds of cake.  Cool each cake completely while still on the paper.

HAZELNUT FILLING

The filling is cooked in a double boiler or a bowl set in a pot with an inch of boiling water.  Be careful that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.

Beat the egg yolks and the sugar with an electric mixer in the smaller pot/bowl (not on the stove yet) for 30 seconds. Place the smaller pot/bowl into the larger one and cook for 15 to 20 minutes until slightly thickened and evenly colored. There will be some darker yellow streaks showing when you stir and all will be a lighter yellow when it’s done.  While it cooks, stir every few minutes, scraping the sides and the bottom of the bowl. Stir constantly near the end.  Let the filling cool completely.

Beat the cooled cooked yolks for 30 seconds with an electric mixer.  In a separate bowl, beat the room temperature butter with vanilla seeds for 2 minutes until light and fluffy, then mix this into the cooked yolk filling.  Add in the ground hazelnuts and beat again until combined.

Set aside ¼ cup of the filling to spread around the torte at the end.

ASSEMBLY

Line a large tray with parchment paper.  Remove the paper from one of the cake rounds and place it onto the tray.  Spread one quarter of the remaining filling evenly over the cake, then place another layer on the top.  Repeat, making sure that the last layer of cake is placed bottom-side-up, but do not spread filling on this top surface.

Place some parchment paper over the torte. Press with your hands to even it out, put another tray over the torte and place something slightly heavy on the top to allow the torte to level up.  Place the whole torte with the weight in the fridge for one hour.  After the cake has chilled, trim the messy edges to round the cake and straighten the sides.

APRICOT JAM GLAZE

Heat the apricot jam and water on the stove until melted.  Remove the paper from the torte and spread the jam on top of it. You want a very thin layer, just barely covering the torte.  Place the torte back in the fridge for 30 minutes for the jam to cool.

Spread the reserved hazelnut filling around the sides of the cake.

WHITE ICING and DECORATION

Melt the chocolate with a teaspoon of oil.  Place in a piping bag with a tiny tip or a plastic bag with a tiny snip in the corner that will act as the tip.

Whisk together the powdered sugar, oil and lemon juice while adding teaspoon by teaspoon of hot water until the mixture is creamy and very thick. Mix well.  With a hot wet knife quickly spread the icing over the top of the torte.

Immediately draw a spiral of chocolate onto the cake, then quickly, using a wooden skewer or knife tip run lines from the center of the cake to the edge. Each line should run in a different direction. One running away from the center and the next one running to the center.  Do not delay on the chocolate decoration process or the chocolate will cool and set up.



Press the remaining crushed hazelnuts around the sides of the cake to complete the decoration.  Let rest in the fridge for 24 hours before serving.



  

Enjoy!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Peperkoek with Rum Glaze

For the month of December, Andrea from 4pure took us on a trip to the Netherlands. She challenged us to take our taste buds on a joyride through the land of sugar and spice by baking three different types of Dutch sweet bread.


Andrea describes this festive bread as such:
"Peperkoek or Kruidkoek is a Dutch sweet quick bread made with warming spices. While we eat this bread for breakfast and lunch, we also have some at our tables for all meals... The recipes listed in the challenge use gingerbread spices. The gingerbread spice blend I use is the one common in the Netherlands."

For this challenge, I followed the recipe fairly close to the original, but rather than using ground ginger in the dry spice blend, I added a good amount of fresh grated ginger to the batter.  I also cut the wheat flour with some white flour and replaced some of the brown sugar with molasses.  And while I expected this sweet bread to be more of a cake, it turned out to be what I would consider the perfect gingerbread.  It is slightly dense and chewy, slightly sweet and entirely festive and warming on a cold Christmas morning.



For the rest of Andrea's Dutch bread recipes, see the original challenge PDF here!

Peperkoek

Servings: 12

Gingerbread Spice Blend  (makes 2 to 3 tablespoons)
  • 3 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper (I used black pepper, actually)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground star anise
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mace
Peperkoek:
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup dark molasses
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 tablespoons ground gingerbread spices
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Rum Glaze (via Sprinklebakes):
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon dark rum
Drizzle of milk or cream
Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350°F and coat a 10 inch bundt pan with baking spray.
Put the eggs, molasses, water, ginger, spices and brown sugar in a bowl. Whisk until everything is dissolved.
Add the flours and the baking powder into the bowl and mix all the ingredients with a wooden spoon until the flour is wet. There may be some lumps left- do not over mix.
Pour into the baking tin and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
Take the cake out of the oven, allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes
After the 5 minutes take the cake out of the pan onto a wire rack to cool down to room temperature.  
For the rum glaze, combine the powdered sugar and rum in a medium bowl. Add milk a few drops at a time while whisking. When the mixture is thick and drops from the whisk in a very thick ribbon back into the bowl, then the correct consistency has been achieved. If the glaze is thinned too much, add additional powdered sugar. Try to keep the glaze quite thick (I wish mine would have been a bit thicker).  Place the cake on a wire rack set on a sheet pan.  Pour the glaze over top of the cake, allowing it to run down the sides.

Let the cake stand uncovered until the sauce hardens.  Serve sliced into wedges.


Enjoy, and happy holidays to you and those you love!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Chocolate Eclair Paris Brest

The November Daring Baker’s challenge took us for a ride! Luisa from Rise of the Sourdough Preacher challenged us to make Paris-Brest, a beautiful pastry celebrating the Paris-Brest bicycle race.



A Paris Brest is made with the same dough as an eclair, though typically it's sandwiched with almond and hazelnut flavored crème mousseline and decorated with slivered almonds and powdered sugar.  Our Daring Baker's hostess, Luisa, was completely open to us being creative thinkers with this challenge, so I recreated a chocolate doughnut filled with vanilla pudding and glazed with rich chocolate.  I served this chilled, sliced into wedges, and it was fantastic. 

Pate a choux is used for making cream puff type desserts, because it blows up in the oven and can be filled with pastry cream or other things, both sweet and savory.  And it's super easy to make!  I made two eight-inch rings of pastry and they both fell a bit when I pulled them out of the oven.  Instead of splitting the rings into two layers I used each as sort of a top and bottom "bun" for my doughnut sandwich.  The filling is real vanilla bean pastry cream and it is SO yummy.  Once chilled, this ginormous doughnut slices up nice and clean. It's not a super refined dessert...but it was really fun to make and kind of charming in a way.





Choux Pastry (pate a choux)
Use a deep saucepan for this. When you whisk in the eggs you'll want plenty of room to groove.

½ cup butter
1 cup water
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, room temp

Egg Wash:
1 egg mixed with 1 1/2 teaspoons water until smooth

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a large sauce pan, combine butter, water, and salt. Heat over medium until the butter melts, then remove from stove. Let this cool off the heat for 2 minutes.

Add flour all at once and beat the mixture fiercely with a whisk until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pot.

Add one egg, and beat until well combined. Add remaining eggs individually, beating vigorously after each addition.

The mixture should be somewhat glossy, very smooth, and very thick but not stiff.

If desired, prepare your parchment by tracing a 6 inch circle with a dark pencil. Flip your paper over and you'll be able see the pattern from above. Pipe three layers of dough in a ring with a half inch round tip or a bag with the corner snipped off, or use a
 star-shaped tip. If you don't have a star tip, use a fork to trace some lines on its surface, this will help the choux pastry to rise properly. Brush with the egg wash.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until golden and puffed. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Slice in half horizontally and fill the bottom layer with pastry cream (recipe below), capping it with the top layer.  Or use two intact rings for the two layers of the doughnut sandwich, piping pastry cream between them..


Set the "sandwich" on a wire rack over a sheet pan and top with lukewarm chocolate glaze (recipe below) and chill until set.  Slice and serve immediately.


Pastry Cream
2 cups whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
6 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk and vanilla bean to a boil over medium heat. Immediately turn off the heat and set aside to infuse for 15 minutes. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the cornstarch and whisk vigorously until no lumps remain. Whisk in 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture until incorporated. Whisk in the remaining hot milk mixture. Pour the mixture through a strainer back into the saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and slowly boiling. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Let cool slightly. Cover with plastic wrap, lightly pressing the plastic against the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Chill at least 2 hours or until ready to serve. The custard can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Refrigerate until 1 hour before using.

Chocolate Glaze
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

In a small saucepan, heat the cream over medium heat just until it boils. Immediately turn off the heat. Put the chocolate in a medium bowl. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Set aside to cool a bit if you want it thicker.  Warm it up a bit if you want to thin it out.


 Enjoy!!!

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