Friday, August 18, 2017

A Breath Of Fresh Éclair.


Ahhhh.  The éclair.  What a divine creation. 

This is the perfect culinary project for your weekend.

But first, a bit of culinary history.

 It is believed that Chef Marie-Antoine Carême, famous pastry chef for French royalty in the 19th century, is responsible for this culinary delight.  Possibly the first celebrity chef, Carême revolutionized French haute cuisine, the "rich, intricate, and elaborate cuisine of the aristocracy and upper classes."  It was Carême who conceived the four "mother sauces-" béchamel, velouté, espagnole, and allemande.  He systematized many basic gastronomic principles with both drawings and step-by-step directions.

   He was the Julia Child of his day, urging people to experiment. He's credited with being the first cookbook author to use the phrase, "you can try this for yourself at home."

He perfected the soufflé and he also introduced the standard chef's white uniform with toque, which conveyed an overall image of cleanliness, still worn by chefs today. Chef Carême was the chef célèbre who elevated dining into art.  His gastronomic displays were legendary.  Carême's creations, many of which were opulent edible architectural creations of famous buildings, captured the eye of French diplomat, Talleyrand, who challenged the young chef to produce a full menu for his personal château, instructing him to use only local, seasonal fruits and vegetables, and to not replicate any dish over the course of a year.   

  Carême focused not only on the flavor of his dishes, but also on the appearance of his table, writing, "I want order and taste.  A well displayed meal is enhanced one hundred per cent in my eyes." 


In his cookbooks, the chef would include a sketch of himself so everyone would know what he looked like and people on the street would be able to recognize him.



 The fact that Carême is responsible for the éclair is but icing on the cake.

The éclair is a pastry made with choux paste, or pâte à choux.  The dough is piped into an oblong shape on a baking pan, then baked until crisp on the outside and hollow inside.  In the oven, steam lifts the pastry, puffing it up into a thin, crisp shell with a hollow middle that simply begs to be filled. My filling of choice is pastry cream, or crème pâtissière, and then I topped my éclairs with a chocolate glaze.

By the way, the dough, pâte á choux, is the same dough used for cream puffs and profiteroles, all variations on a wonderfully delicious theme.

  Pâte à Choux

1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour
5 eggs

Note:  It is important to use skim milk, not whole.  The first batch I made I used 1/2 skim and 1/2 heavy cream and the éclairs didn't puff nearly as much as using just skim.  The fat content makes a difference.  And I have seen recipes that used water instead of the milk.

Heat oven to 425°.
In a heavy saucepan, combine milk, water, salt, sugar, and butter.  Cook over medium heat until the butter melts and mixture comes to a full boil.  Add flour all at once, stirring vigorously.  Keep stirring for 3-4 minutes until the mixture forms a smooth mass and pulls away from the sides of the pan.

Transfer dough to a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and add eggs, one at a time, incorporating each each before adding the next.

Transfer mixture to a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch tip.  I used a plastic storage bag with the corner cut off.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  For éclairs, pipe out log shapes 4-5 inches long and 1 inch wide, spacing 2 inches apart.  For the cream puffs and profiteroles, pipe out small circles, 2-3 inches in diameter.

Bake at 425° for 10 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 375° and continue to bake about 12 minutes longer, until nicely browned all over.  Remove from oven and poke a small hole in the end of each shell to allow steam to escape, keeping the shells from collapsing.  Cool on wire racks.

Fill each éclair with pastry cream.  You can spoon the pastry cream in a pastry bag with a small opening and fill the éclairs through a small hole in each end of the shell, or you can split the éclairs in half and spoon on the filling.

If you don't have a pastry bag, use a zip-lock bag and make a small slice in the corner.

Top with chocolate glaze.

  Crème Pâtissière
2 cups whole milk
 OR 14 oz. skim milk and 2 oz. heavy cream
1/2 vanilla bean
1/4 tsp kosher salt
3 TB cornstarch
1/2 cup + 1 TB sugar
2 eggs
4 TB unsalted butter, cut into 1 TB pieces

Rosie never has whole milk on hand, however, she always has skim milk and heavy cream. To approximate whole milk, for each cup I used 7 ounces skim and 1 ounce heavy cream.

In a heavy saucepan, heat the milk with the salt and split vanilla bean and scraped out seeds.  Bring to just under a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, making sure that the milk solids don't stick to the bottom of the pan and burn.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the cornstarch and sugar.  Add eggs, whisking until smooth.

When the milk is ready, slowly ladle in about a third of the hot milk into the egg mixture to temper the eggs.  You don't want scrambled here.  Pour the egg/milk mixture back into the hot milk and continue whisking over medium heat until the custard thickens, 2-3 minutes.  Don't let it boil, or you will curdle the cream.  Remove from heat and immediately pour through a fine sieve into another bowl, removing the vanilla bean pods.  Let cool for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to release heat.

When the pastry cream is about 140°, whisk the butter into the pastry cream, one tablespoon at a time, whisking until smooth before adding the next tablespoon. Cover with plastic wrap directly on top and refrigerate.  Pastry cream will keep, well covered, in the fridge for about five days.  Heh.  Not in this house!

Chocolate Glaze
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1 TB light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
Combine chocolate and corn syrup in a heatproof bowl.  Bring cream to just under a boil in a small saucepan.  Pour hot cream over chocolate mixture, letting mixture sit a few minutes without stirring until the chocolate melts.  Gently stir until smooth and shiny.

   And the finished product!
I sliced these cream puffs in half, slathered on the Crème Pâtissière, and drizzled on the chocolate glaze.

For the éclairs, I filled a pastry bag with the Crème Pâtissière and piped it through a hole in each end of the shell, filling from both ends.  Pour chocolate glaze over top.

And enjoy!

This is heaven!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Rosie's Figs Are A-Comin' In And She's Makin' Figcaccia.

Rosie's figs are coming in.
What to do?  What to do?

I've made fig newtons, fig ice cream, sticky figgy buns, all manner of fig appetizers ...
You name; I've figged it.

What to do next?
Well, I'll tell you!
Make a fig pizza - it's figcaccia!

 This is the finished product.
And you know you want some.

First, I made a dough.
Just my regular pizza dough.
 Here's my dough, rising.

I cut the dough in half.
Saving one half for something later.  Probably pizza.  Put it in a zip-lock bag and refrigerate.

Using the other half tonight for the figcaccia.

I made some caramelized onions.

Then I started working on my dough.
Pressing it out.

Take your time pressing.
Press and rest.
Press and rest.
Then let it rise.

Bake the dough until lightly browned.

Spread with a mixture of Chèvre and Bleu cheeses.

Add on some caramelized onions.

Then some sliced, fleshy figs.


Brie cheese on top of figs.

Ready for baking.

And there ya go.

Beautemous and delicioumous.

Here are the how-tos and what-fors:

Rosie's Dough
1/2 cup warm water
1 package yeast
maybe a teaspoon of sugar

Sprinkle the yeast on top of the water.
Then sprinkle the sugar on top of the yeast.
Leave it.  Let it "proof."
That means the yeast "proves" it's alive.
By getting foamy and poofy.  It's hungry.  It's eating the sugar.  And emitting carbon dioxide and alcohol.
Next, fork in about  1 - 1 1/2 cups or so of bread flour.  Just enough to make a shaggy ball of dough.  Knead it, until it's a smooth and cohesive ball of dough.  Pour some oil in a bowl.  Roll the dough in the oil, cover, and let rise until doubled.

After the rising, I cut the dough in half.  Wrapped one half in plastic and refrigerated it.  Save it for pizza or something else later on.

 Press the dough out in an oiled pan, pressing and resting, until you have about a 10 x 12-inch rectangle.  Let it rise.

Bake the crust in a 350° oven for about 8 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Rosie’s Figcaccia
4 oz. bleu cheese, softened
4 oz. chèvre cheese (goat cheese), softened
1 onion, peeled, sliced, and caramelized
At least a dozen figs, sliced
Fresh rosemary
Brie cheese
Wildflower honey
Extra virgin olive oil

In a small bowl, mash together the softened bleu and chèvre cheeses.
To caramelize the onion, melt a tablespoon of butter with a little oil in a medium skillet over medium low heat.  Add in the onion slices with a pinch of kosher salt and a pinch of sugar.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until slices start to brown.  Take your time doing this, allowing the natural sugars in the onion to caramelize, resulting in an intensely flavorful concoction.  Remove from heat.

Assemble your fig pie:
Spread the softened bleu and chèvre cheeses evenly over the browned pizza crust.  Top with caramelized onions, as many sliced figs as you like, a sprinkling of fresh rosemary, a dab of brie cheese on top of each fig, and a light drizzling of honey and extra virgin olive oil.

Be sure you use wildflower honey made from bees who have feasted in your garden and live about 1/2 mile away.

Bake in a 350° oven until brie melts – 5-7 minutes.

This is just all sorts of good.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Try This Coleslaw!

 I made coleslaw.
It was unconventional - as in no mayonnaise.

I made two versions.

 Here's the first recipe:

Rosie's Coleslaw
 1 cup shredded cabbage
1 TB finely chopped red onion
2 TB finely chopped Fuji apple
1 TB shredded carrot
2 TB poppy seed dressing
Mix all together.

Rosie's Poppy Seed Dressing
 Makes 1 cup.
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp ground mustard
juice of 1 lemon
3/4 cup canola oil
1 heaping TB poppy seeds
½ tsp kosher salt, or to taste
few grinds of pepper

In a jar with a tight fitting lid, combine vinegar, sugar, mustard, and lemon juice.  Whisk to dissolve sugar.  Drizzle in oil in slow, steady stream, whisking constantly, to make a nice emulsion, or you can combine everything in a mini-processor and have a go at it.  Stir in poppy seeds and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Shake vigorously before pouring.

  It was really good.

 And then I made it over, because I wanted more and I wanted different.
I slightly modified the recipe.
Made more of it.
Made it different.
And made it really, really good.

 Rosie's Modified Coleslaw
 2 cups shredded cabbage
1 apple, peeled, cored, and finely chopped, and bathed in juice of 1/2 lemon
3/4 cup chopped red onion
1/2 carrot, shredded
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup poppy seed dressing
Mix all together.

 Even better.
Sweet and salty!

That's the ticket!

Now, what to do with that extra poppy seed dressing?
 Make a fruit salad!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Youngest Hawthorne Has A Birthday.

Is this a cake or what?!?!

I was mulling over what kind of cake to make for my little Hawthorne, and mind you, the bar is high.

I never know what to expect from Youngest Hawthorne.
And I don't always know what his expectations are.
Although, sometimes I do.
Case in point:
 This is a schematic he drew, 4 years ago, of exactly what he wanted in a birthday cake.
And I successfully delivered.

This year, I had no such game plan, so to speak, so I'm winging it.
I'm going with a three layer coconut and pecan cake.

Here's my mise en place for the cake.
It helps to have everything ready to rock 'n' roll.

Coconut and Pecan Layer Cake

For the cake:
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
 8 TB unsalted butter, softened
½ cup Crisco 
2 cups sugar
5 eggs, separated, room temperature

1 ¼ cups coconut
1 cup finely chopped pecans

Heat oven to 350°.
Butter and flour three 8" cake pans.
Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in one bowl.
Whisk buttermilk and vanilla in another.
In bowl of stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, Crisco, and sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
On low speed, alternately add dry ingredients in 3 batches (starting and ending with dry) and wet ingredients in 2 batches.  Increase speed and beat until batter is smooth. 
Whip egg whites in another bowl until stiff peaks form.
Fold whites, coconut, and pecans into batter.
Divide batter among three pans and bake about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Let cakes cool for 20 minutes in pan, then turn out onto wire racks and cool completely.

For the icing:
4 TB unsalted butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 ½ cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans, toasted
1/2 cup toasted coconut

With a hand mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Slowly add in sugar, beating, and vanilla, until smooth.

To assemble:
Place first cake layer on cake stand and spread with about ⅓ of the icing.  Top with second layer and spread with about ⅓ of the icing. Top with third layer and cover top and sides with remaining frosting.  Sprinkle top and sides with coconut and nuts, pressing into icing.  Chill.

Always take time to go check on your hummers.

My cake batter is ready for the oven.

Cooled cakes, ready for frosting.


Happy Birthday to my Little Hawthornelet!