Sunday, August 31, 2008

Daring Bakers - Eclairs

Eclairs. The word rolls off the tongue, smooth and silky, arousing images of Parisian cafes and glass-paneled patisseries, shiny chocolate glaze and luscious swirls of pastry cream.

I remember browsing the pastry case at cake shops, looking at the beautifully crafted fruit tarts and lusting after the dark mysteries of chocolate torte. Eclairs drew my eyes though, as something always constant, always delicious.

I remember going to Costco and buying the frozen cream puffs or eclairs filled with Bavarian cream. It was always a question of just how many I will allow myself to have in one sitting. They suggested serving them slightly thawed. But I always preferred them right out of the freezer, liking the way the cold cream warms and melts on my tongue.

Therefore, I was ecstatic to learn that this week's challenge is eclairs. And the recipe is from none other than the remarkable Pierre Herme. Of course, I put off making them until the very end. *sigh* Everything came together nicely though. There's a batch of baked puffs cooling right now, waiting to be filled.

I made the dough on Friday. It was quick and painless, very very cooperative. I don't think the dough was as loose as the recipe saids it should be, but it still turned out well nonetheless. I realized as I grabbed my piping set that I had lost a coupler for my tips, so I couldn't use the giant tip I bought and was so excited to use. Instead I spooned the puff dough onto the baking sheet, and made them quite a bit larger than I probably should have. I let them bake an extra 5-10 minutes longer to compensate. I made a third of the dough into long eclairs shape, and spooned the rest in round dollops for cream puffs. I froze those and baked them after thawing this morning.

The pastry cream recipe I followed to a T and finally broke the curse of the lumpy pastry cream that has haunted me...since I started baking. It was delicious and very easy to make. I kept things simple with vanilla and chocolate, but there's plenty of room for experimentation.

I actually didn't make the listed chocolate glaze recipe. I still had ganache in the fridge from my chocolate caramel tartlettes so I heated some of that with a bit of whole milk. Once the mixture has cooled slightly, I spooned that onto the top of my eclairs.

Cream Puff Dough:
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup water
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
5 large eggs

In a medium sauce pan, bring milk, water, butter, sugar, and salt to a boil.

Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, turn the heat down to medium and add all the flour in at once. Stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough should come together very quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it's suppose to happen. Keep stirring a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. At this time, the dough will be very soft and smooth.

Transfer the dough into a bowl. With a wooden spoon or better yet, a electric mixture, beat in the eggs one at a time, waiting until the previous one has been incorporated into the dough. The dough may separate during this process, but at the end should come together, leaving you with a thick and shiny dough.

While the dough is warm, spoon or pipe 4 to 4 1/2 inch chubby fingers onto a baking sheet, leaving 2 inches of space to allow them room to puff. Bake in a preheated 375 degrees oven for 7 minutes. After 7 minutes, slip the handle of a wooden spoon into the oven door to keep it slightly ajar and bake for another 5 minutes. Rotate the pan at this time and bake a further 8 minutes. The total baking time should be approximately 20 minutes. The eclairs should be puffed, golden, firm, and hollow-sounding when tapped.

Pastry Cream:
2 cups whole milk
4 large egg yolks
6 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch, sifted
2 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

3 1/2 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted (for half the pastry cream)
1 tsp vanilla extract (for half the pastry cream)

In a medium saucepan, bring milk to boil. In the meantime, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch. Still whisking the yolk mixture, slowly drizzle in about half of the boiling milk. This will temper the eggs. Strain the yolk and milk mixture back into the saucepan (on medium heat) to remove any bits of scrambled eggs and whisk vigorously until the mixture thickens. Continue whisking for 1 to 2 more minutes.

At this point, you can add in your flavorings. I split the pastry cream in 2 and added melted chocolate to one and vanilla extract to the other. Once the flavorings are incorporated, take the pan off the heat and cooled the cream in ice water. Stir in the butter in 3 to 4 installments, and continue stirring until the cream is completely cooled. Store in the fridge until ready to fill.

Chocolate Glaze:
1/3 cup heavy cream
3 1/2 oz bittersweet chocolate
4 tsp unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
7 tbsp chocolate sauce (see below), warm or at room temperature

In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly add in the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or a spatula. Stir in butter, piece by piece, followed by chocolate sauce.

Chocolate Sauce:
4 1/2 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup water
1/2 cup creme fraiche, or heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar

Place all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens. The sauce is done when it coats the back of your spoon (may take 10-15 minutes).

To Assemble:
Once the eclairs (or puffs) have cooled, slice them horizontally in half, using a serrated knife. Set aside the bottoms while you glaze the top. Spread the barely warm chocolate glaze on top of the eclairs using a knife or metal icing spatula. Will the glaze set, fill the bottom with pastry cream.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

hello summer...good-bye summer...

I made this a few weeks ago, but haven't had a chance to post. This is another one of Dorie Greenspan's recipes. But really it's more of a method (God, I sound like Rachel Ray). The crust is very versatile and can be used for regular pies or hand pies. The filling is entirely reliant on your whim. My roommate brought home some gorgeous plums, so that's what I used.

Summer Fruit Galette

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 stick (10 tbsp) very cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 1/2 tbsp very cold vegetable shortening, cut into small pieces (I replaced with cream cheese)
about 1/4 cup ice water

2-3 tbsp jam or marmalade
4 plums, pitted and sliced
about 2 tbsp graham cracker crumbs (I used finely crushed granola)

To make crust:
Mix flour, sugar and salt in large bowl. Cut in cold butter and shortening (or cream cheese) until pea-sized pieces form. Add in ice water 1 tbsp at a time and stir until dough comes together when pinched. Do not overwork the dough. Turn out onto a work surface and shape into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for an hour.

When ready to roll, place chilled dough on a floured work surface. Roll out into a large 1/8-inch-thick circle. Trim the dough to a 13-inch diameter. Lightly trace a 9-inch circle in the center of the dough, the area for the filling.

To Assemble:
Spread some jam within the filling area. Scatter over the graham cracker crumbs. These two steps will prevent the crust from becoming soggy. Arrange the plum slices on top of the cracker crumbs. Fold the outside edge of the crust on top of the plums, allowing the dough to fold naturally. Brush the dough with water and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake in a 425 preheated oven

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Chocolate-Crunched Caramel Tartlettes

A friend of mine ordered something for me a few months ago, and in return asked me to simply bake for him. I guess I was flattered that he held my baking skills in such high regard that he would take that over actual payment. He wanted something chocolatey. And so here it is, a little late, but nonetheless a sign of my appreciation. For you, my creme-brulee-loving friend, is Dorie Greenspan's Chocolate-Crunched Caramel Tart.

This is great in small doses, rich with chocolate, cream and butter. It's simple yet very decadent.

Chocolate-Crunched Caramel Tart

Sweet Tart Dough:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1 stick plus
1 tbsp unsalted butter (cut into small pieces and frozen)
1 large egg yolk


1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar, sifted

1 tbsp light corn syrup

2 tbsp salted butter (at room temperature and cut small)

a pinch salt if using unsalted butter

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup plus 2 tbsp heavy cream

4 tbsp unsalted butter (at room temperature and cut small)

3/4 cup honey-roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped

To Make Sweet Tart Dough:
Put flour, confectioners' sugar and salt in food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Scatter pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until butter is coarsely cut in. Stir the yolk and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in process in long pulses (about 10 seconds each) until the dough forms clumps. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and lightly knead to incorporate any dry ingredients. Butter a 9-inch fluted pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. You should save a little piece to do patchwork with later. The crust should still be crumbly, just be sure that the edges of the pieces cling to each other. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. Place the tart on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated 375 degrees oven for 25 minutes (for a partially baked crust). To fully bake a crust (as in this tart), remove the foil, press down the crust slightly if it has puffed, and bake for another 8 minutes or so, until firm and golden brown.

For the Caramel:
Bring the heavy cream to boil. In another skillet over medium heat, sprinkle in 3 tablespoons of sugar. When it melts, stir with a wooden spatula or fork and sprinkle over another 3 tablespoons. When that sugar has melted, add in another 2 tablespoons. Stir in corn syrup and boil teh syrup until it reaches a deep caramel color. Don't worry if it begins to smoke. Stand back from the skillet and add in butter and salt if you are using it. The caramel will bubble and sputter. When the butter is in, add the warm cream. The caramel will bubble again. Lower the temperature a bit and let the caramel boil for 2 minutes (candy thermometer should read 226 degrees F). Let cool.

For the Ganache:
Place the chopped chocolate in a heat proof bowl. Bring the heavy cream to boil and pour half of it over the chocolate, allowing it to sit for 30 seconds. Stir in concentric circles, starting in the center and working your way outward. Pour in the remaining half of the cream and blend in the chocolate until smooth. Add in the butter piece by piece, stirring just enough to blend the ingredients. The less you work it, the shinier, darker, and smoother the chocolate will be. Cover the ganache with a plastic wrap right up against the surface of the ganache. Set aside at room temperature or refrigerate if not using immediately.

To Assemble:
Stir the chopped peanuts into the caramel. If the caramel has cooled too much and turned hard, gently warm it in the microwave for about 3 minutes. Spread the caramel in a thin layer over the bottom of the cooled tart shell. Refrigerate tart for 15 minutes to set the caramel layer. Pour the ganache over the caramel, making sure there are no air bubbles. Refrigerate assembled tart for 30 minutes (no longer) and keep at room temperature until serving time.

That recipe being said, I made a few changes. I made individual tartlettes, and used a different method for making the caramel. Mine is made with caramel candy and a touch of heavy bream, melted together. The resulting caramel will harden quite quickly upon cooling, so I just keep it in the pot I made it, and heat it up briefly before use. I also used pecans instead of peanuts. As for the tart crust, it was ok. I was a little nervous making it because the crust is so crumbly. It is very short-bread like, while I like a tighter, moister crust. The tart, or rather tartlettes, got good reviews.