Monday, January 19, 2015

Puff Pastry and Pear Feuilletés

I have a box of puff pastry sitting in my freezer.  It's a good brand, no preservatives or additives that I can't pronounce.  And it's expensive too.

It all starts here...

Pound and roll your butter into a block

Wrap that block up tight and get it cold

I bought it because I wanted to try it and I thought it would be nice to have in a pinch.  But it's still there and I can't bring myself to use it.

Roll your dough out into a big circle
Place your cold butter block in the middle

I feel like I should make my own because anything store bought would be a baking abomination and a lie--like not making your own pie crust.  And I realize this is especially ridiculous with puff pastry because at the very least it takes a full day, from dusk til dawn, to make--it's a process.

Envelope the block by folding the edges over it--like an envelope...

Pinch the edges together to seal them

Nevertheless, I went forward and made it for the third time in my life and documented it.  I used Bouchon Bakery's recipe which might take a little longer than most recipes I've seen.  I love this cookbook but it's one of those where almost every recipe is extensive and time consuming.

Roll the block out into a very large rectangle

Trim the edges square and place the trimmings somewhere in the middle
Fold it into thirds--like a letter

You must read through it thoroughly to understand exactly how long everything is going to take.  The puff pastry recipe is no exception.  But I suppose it's worth it because it does work miracles in the end with an extremely flaky and buttery result.  

Wrap it tight in plastic wrap and chill it

One annoying problem I've had with making puff pastry both in the past and during this project was making sure the butter didn't start re-surfacing during the rolling process.  I tend to keep the dough pretty cold and try and work as fast as humanly possible but I still end up seeing some of the butter smear on the surface of the dough.  I don't know how to avoid this.

After it's chilled for a couple of hours, roll it out into another large rectangle
Trim the edges square, tuck in the trimming, fold into thirds--this is the second "turn."  You'll do this at least 3 or 4 more times...  Chill, roll, fold, chill, roll, fold.

I've used both high quality butter and mediocre brands.  It always happens.  The only thing I can think of to do is to try harder to keep it cold and work even faster.  Or, at the very beginning of the process when you first place the butter block on the dough and fold the dough over it, you are supposed to pinch the four edges of the dough together.  Maybe the pinches don't hold and that's the beginning of the end.  So perhaps I'll try overlapping the dough edges at that stage and hope that the seal won't break.  I'm not sure if that is even the root of the problem but it's worth a shot.

I planned on using the puff pastry to make another recipe from the Bouchon Bakery book--pear feuilletés.  

You poach the pears in a white wine syrup and then let them soak in that syrup for a day or so--I did for about a week.  Then you cut out your pastry, pipe a bed of almond cream onto the bottom crust, spread some sweet wine soaked pears on top of that and then cover it with the top layer of pastry.  

Puff pastry--turned 6 times--ready for use

It's fairly simple and undoubtedly fucking delicious.  The only hard part I encountered with them was using the lattice cutter.  

I had never used one and was excited to.  

I purchased one just for this endeavor.  But it wasn't exactly easy.  It didn't always cut all the way through the dough and the dough would stick to the lattice cutter often.  

So the dough had to be really really cold in order to get a decent lattice cut.  

Since my parents were over for a nice dinner that night and I was making the pastries after dinner, I didn't have much time to keep chilling the dough for every pastry.  

So I made due and in all honesty they all looked a little unique and interesting still.  I wasn't too upset but I definitely want another go at that lattice cutter.

Recipe for puff pastry:

-400g (4 sticks) unsalted butter
-225g (3/4c + 3T) water
-25g (1T + 2 1/2tsp) white wine vinegar
-500g (3 1/2c + 1T) all purpose flour
-10g (1T + 3/8tsp) kosher salt
-50g (1.7oz) unsalted butter melted but cooled to room temp.

To make the butter block, take your 4 sticks of butter and line them up side by side on top of a piece of parchment paper, wax paper or plastic wrap.  Place another piece of whatever type of paper or wrap you are using  on top of the butter.  Using a rolling pin, use a combination of pounding and rolling the butter until it sticks together and you have one giant thing of butter.  Essentially you can mash it all together in anyway you like because you are just going to use the rolling pin to roll it into a block.  At this point you are just trying to get the four pieces of butter to be one cohesive block of butter.   Once the butter is "one" then roll it into a 6x8 inch rectangle that is smooth and of equal thickness throughout--it might help to throw some flour on the butter block while you roll and form it.  Wrap the butter block tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.  

For the dough, first combine the water and vinegar together in a small bowl.  Then, using the bowl of a stand mixer combine the flour and salt.  With the dough hook attachment, mix the flour and salt on low speed for about 30 seconds.  Then add half of the vinegar/water mixture and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds.  Add the rest of the vinegar/water mixture and mix on low speed for another 30 seconds.  Next, slowly add the melted butter into the mixture and mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together in the middle of the bowl.  Stop the mixer.  The dough should feel tacky but not really sticky.  Take the dough out of the bowl and knead it for several minutes.  It won't be completely smooth.  Form the dough into a ball.  Place it into a lightly greased medium sized bowl. Using a sharp knife, score a large 1/2 inch deep "X" into the top of the ball of dough to help it relax. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours. 

To encase the butter block in the dough, roll the dough out into a 12-13 inch circle on a lightly floured surface.  Place the butter block in the center of the circle and fold the edges of the dough over the block.  Pull each edge of the dough together at the center of the block and pinch the edges together to seal them--there should not be any butter exposed.  Everything should still be pretty cold at this point. If it's not, put it in the fridge to chill until it is nice and cold again.  

Now that the butter is encased, the first turn is ready to happen.  Using a rolling pin start from the center of the block and roll the encased butter dough rectangle into a 24 inch long by 9 inch wide rectangle. You will want to continually rotate and flip the dough while you are rolling it to make sure it doesn't stick to your work surface.  Again, if the dough becomes too warm, transfer it to a parchment lined baking sheet and chill it for about 15 minutes.  Once you have your rectangle trim the edges square. Take the trimmings (make sure the layers of the trimmings are running in the same direction as the dough) and place them in the approximate center of the rectangle.  Now, fold the rectangle into thirds as though you were forming a letter.  Turn the block 90 degrees so it resembles a book.  Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and place it on a baking sheet and then into the fridge to chill for 2 hours.  This completes the first turn.

For the second turn, you'll do much the same as for the first turn.  Remove the block from the fridge and roll it out on a lightly floured surface.  Roll it into another 24 inch by 9 inch rectangle.  Trim the edges square if they are rounded and tuck the trimmings into the middle of the rectangle--again making sure that their layers are running in the same direction as the dough you just trimmed them from.  Fold the rectangle into thirds like a letter again.  Turn it 90 degrees--like a book--wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and chill for another 2 hours.  This is the end of the second turn.

You will do this same process for 3-4 more times.  After you are done with all of your turns, let the dough chill for at least an hour before using or you can wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and place it in an air tight container to freeze until ready for use.

For the pear feuilletés:

Poached pears

-150g (1/2c + 3T) sauvignon blanc
-300g (1 1/4c) water
-100g (1/2c + 1T) granulated sugar
-1 vanilla bean split
-2g (3/8tsp) fresh lemon juice
-3 small pears--I used Bartlett

In a medium saucepan, combine the wine, water and sugar.  Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the pan and then the pod itself.  Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved completely.  After the sugar has dissolved, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lemon juice.  Let the mixture cool completely. When it is cool, remove the vanilla bean pod and discard.  Peel the pears and cut them into 1/2 inch cubes (the cookbook instructs you to use a melon baller to do this instead but I didn't have one).  Submerge the pears into the wine sugar syrup/poaching liquid, cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 3 days.

Almond cream

-73g (1/2c + 2 1/2tsp) almond flour/meal
-7g (2 1/4tsp) all purpose flour
-73g (2 1/2oz) unsalted butter at room temp.
-73g (1/2c + 2T) powdered sugar
-1 large egg

Using a small bowl, run the almond flour through a fine mesh sieve to break up any lumps.  Add the flour and whisk to combine.  Set aside.  Place the room temp. butter in the bowl of a stand mixer. Then, using the paddle attachment beat the butter on medium high speed until it is light and has the consistency of mayonnaise.  Stop the mixer and sift in the powdered sugar.  Turn the mixer on medium and beat for about 3 minutes until the butter/sugar is light and fluffy.  Turn the mixer to low and add the almond/flour mixture in 2 additions scraping down the bowl between additions to make sure you are incorporating everything.  Lastly add the egg and mix on low until fully incorporated--30-60 seconds.  Remove the bowl from the mixer, place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the mixture and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 4 days.

To prepare the whole feuilletés

Egg wash

-1 large egg
-1 tsp cold water

For the egg wash, in a small bowl whisk together the egg and water well.  Set aside.

Line the backs of 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.  Take your chilled almond cream out of the fridge and let it come to room temp.  Take your very cold puff pastry from the refrigerator and cut it in half.  Wrap the other half back up and place it into the fridge.  Lightly flour a large work surface.  Roll out the one half of puff pastry into a large 11x16 inch rectangle.  If it gets too warm and starts sticking to your work surface then place it back in the fridge to chill for a few minutes.  Once it's rolled out, place it on one of the parchment lined baking sheets and then back in the fridge.  Do the same exact thing for the other puff pastry half.  Now, using some sort of a 5 inch sized cookie cutter (the cookbook uses a 5x3 inch pear shaped cutter but I couldn't find one like that so I used a simple 5 inch circle cutter), mark 6 light indentations--not cutting all the way through at this point--on one sheet of the rolled out puff pastry.  Brush the egg wash around the edges of each circle.  Next place your room temperature almond cream into a piping back and, using a plain 1/2 inch tip, pipe the cream onto each of your 6 circled indentations leaving a 1/2 inch border all around.  Then divide the poached pears equally between each circle.  Remove the second rolled out rectangle of puff pastry from the fridge and cut it into 6 equal rectangles--big enough to drape over each pear topped circle. If you are using a lattice cutter now would be the time to use it--if not you can skip it and cut out any sort of design you want on the top piece of pastry.  But for the lattice, roll it on each of the 6 rectangles.  Then lightly pull the sides apart to form the lattice.  Drape each rectangle over each circle.  Using the circle cutter, cut through each layer and lightly press the edges to seal.  Brush the egg wash over each pastry and place them on a right side up parchment or silicone lined baking sheet. Refrigerate for 1 hour before baking.  Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Bake the pastries for 30-35 minutes rotating the sheet pan halfway at about 15 minutes into baking.  Once done, cool the pastries on a rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Gingerbread Farnsworth House

One of the things I loved most about architecture school was making scale models.  And I felt that building my own gingerbread house would be a way to revive my model-making skills and get into the spirit of the gay ole holiday.  I had a whole tackle box full of scale model-making tools that were yearning for use again.  I used my X-acto knife for the first time since architecture school making this gingerbread house--paring knives just weren't cutting it.  It was fun.  

For those of you who don't know, the Farnsworth house is a residence--former residence turned architecture tourist attraction--in Plano, Illinois.  It was designed by Mies van der Roe some time during the 1940's-50's.  And I like it.  But that actually wasn't the reason I chose to re-create it using gingerbread cookie.  I thought it would be easy and also I have the Lego Architecture series Farnsworth house already built at home so it was easy to use it as a model for my model.  I basically made it 1 1/2x the size of the Lego house.  

And about that thought I had that there would be some ease to making it... I was semi-wrong.  I mean, if you look at the house it's just a glass box--simple enough?  Well yes and no.  That glass was what gave me some trouble.  I read that you can make sugar glass by the same manner you use to make caramel--you just have to cook it slowly and take it off the heat before it begins to turn that caramel color.  I practiced doing that several times and it worked but then the sugar would re-crystallize on the surface of the sugar glass and it would look like frosted glass.  I wanted clear glass.  But after several attempts, I gave up and just let the frost win.  I figured it would just make it look like the glass had frosted over in the winter climate.  Whatever.  

But that was actually the most difficult part about it.  I thought I was going to have some issue with propping the house up with the gingerbread columns but that royal icing works wonders and is seriously an excellent adhesive.  

Aside from that, I just decorated the rest of it as I pleased using m&m's, jelly beans, gummy bears, sno-caps and some other random candies--that part is completely up to you.

Recipe for gingerbread cookie dough from the Joy of Cooking:

1c butter
1c granulated sugar
1c unsulphured molasses
5c all-purpose flour DIVIDED
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1T ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat.  Once it's melted, add the sugar and molasses and stir constantly over low-medium heat until all of the sugar has dissolved.  Dip your finger in the saucepan (make sure you don't burn yourself) to make sure it no longer feels gritty.  Once the sugar is dissolved, remove the saucepan from the heat and set aside to cool to a lukewarm temperature.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk 4 1/2c of flour and the rest of the dry ingredients.  Pour in the lukewarm butter/molasses/sugar mixture and mix on low speed until fully combined.  Remove the bowl from the mixer and using a wooden spoon or a big silicone spatula, fold in the remaining 1/2c of flour. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cool-cold.  When you are ready to bake the dough, line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.  Preheat the oven to 350 F. Roll out the dough and cut the patterns or shapes of the parts of the house you need and bake them for 12-15 minutes.  Let cool completely before use.

For the sugar glass, I went to Martha:

1 1/2c sugar
3/4c water

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stir together the sugar and water until all of the sugar has dissolved and the mixture comes to a boil.  Stop stirring and turn down the heat to medium-low. Continue to cook until the mixture reaches 290 F or just before it starts to turn that caramel color. Immediately pour the mixture into a mold that you are using for whatever shape you want--let me know if you want to know precisely what I did.  I'm happy to share.  Let the sugar glass harden and cool completely before picking it up and using it.

Royal icing

1 large egg white
1c confectioners sugar DIVIDED

In a small microwave safe bowl, stir the egg white and 2/3c of the sugar together until fully combined. Place the bowl in the microwave and microwave it on high in 10 second increments until the temperature reaches 160 F.  Remove the bowl from the microwave and pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Pour the remaining sugar in the bowl.  Using the whisk attachment, beat the mixture until stiff peaks form and the icing has cooled completely.  Use immediately or store in a covered container in the fridge for a few days.  Just make sure you place some plastic wrap directly atop the icing so it doesn't harden before you use it.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Yule Log Cake (Bûche de Noël)

One of my favorite cafes makes a yule log cake each year around this time.  They look pretty traditional--at least from the ones I see on Pinterest.  But this year I saw one in their glass display case that was a little different--it had a bit of a modern take on it.  It had a beautiful sleek chocolate glaze covering it and then it was speckled with macarons.

It was interesting looking and I wanted to copy it.  So I found a swanky looking chocolate glaze recipe and I decided to give macarons one more shot because they were just going to be decorative pieces anyway so what did I really care if they turned out right or not...  And after much deliberating I decided to go with a chocolate genoise cake recipe in my Joy of Cooking cookbook.

Roll cakes can be tricky because they can crack when you roll them.  Thus far, I've only made a handful and I've never actually had that much trouble with them--but that might just be luck.  This one cracked a bit at one end but it wasn't devastatingly bad.  And that wasn't my qualm with this cake recipe.  It was the non-separation of egg whites and yolks that annoyed me.  Usually, when I've made these types of cakes, you separate the whites from the yolks and then whip the whites into a giant meringue and then fold it into the batter.

But here, you whip the whole egg into a giant frenzy--along with the rest of the wet ingredients--and then fold the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder) into the whipped up egg mass.  And then it takes forever to fold the dry ingredients into the puffed up egg mixture and just when you think you are done, you dive your spatula into the bowl and end up finding more and more dry ingredients that haven't been incorporated into the batter.  So you keep folding and folding and deflating and deflating--it's a pain in the ass.  I find that folding a meringue into wet batter is a much easier and less time consuming process.  Maybe this is the way it's supposed to be, maybe I was doing it all wrong to begin with but never again will keep my egg yolk and white together to make a cake like this.  Some things are better left to be separated.

Despite all of that baking drama, the cake turned out pretty good.  My macarons were just eh--they looked fine but I'm not going to go into it anymore than that.  I decided to make a butterscotch cream filling with a little bit of whiskey in it--from the recipe of another roll cake I made a while back.  It was pretty darn tasty.

The glaze was pretty swanky.  I still have a hard time glazing cakes with an even finish.  Plus it's hard to tightly roll a cake like this.  I ended up with some gaps at the ends of the roll so I couldn't get the glaze to set over them too well.  Thus, I ended up covering the holes with some decorative macarons. All in all, it was a good project.


Chocolate genoise cake from Joy of Cooking

1/2c + 1T cake flour sifted
1/2c + 1T unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3c unsalted butter at room temp.
6 large eggs at room temp.
1c granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2c of moistening syrup of your choosing--I used just a simple sugar syrup

Line a 17 1/2" x 11 1/2" jelly roll pan with parchment paper.  Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Sift together the flour and cocoa powder a few times to make sure it's very fine and set aside.  In a small saucepan, melt the butter and then remove from the heat and set aside.  Next, in a large heatproof mixing bowl add the eggs and the rest of the sugar.  Then, fill a large skillet--one that is big enough to fit your mixing bowl that is holding the eggs--with water.  Heat the water until it is barely simmering and then place the bowl with the eggs and sugar inside the skillet of water.  While whisking constantly, heat the mixture until the temperature is 110 F or just warm to the touch.  Transfer the bowl to a stand mixer and using the whisk attachment, beat the eggs until they have tripled in volume and are light in color--about 5 minutes.  Next is the hard part in my opinion...  Sift the flour/cocoa mixture over the top of the egg mixture in 3 additions and fold it into the egg mixture.  Be vigilant because you will constantly find more dry ingredients at the bottom of the bowl so dig deep but with care until everything is fully incorporated.  Now, re-heat the butter until it's hot and transfer it to a medium bowl.  Then take about 1 1/2c of the egg mixture and fold it into the butter along with the vanilla. Lastly, pour that back into the rest of the egg mixture and fold to combine.  Spread the batter into the prepared baking sheet evenly and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the cake springs back when lightly touched.  Meanwhile, using a tea towel or some sort of clean dish towel--something large enough to cover the cake--lay it flat on your work surface and sprinkle cocoa powder over it evenly.  When the cake is done, remove it from the oven and let it cool for about 10 minutes in the pan.  Then, run a knife along the edges to make sure the cake has detached from the sides of the pan and invert it onto the tea towel.  If the cake is "hot", then let it cool a bit more but you want it warm to the touch when you roll it.  So when it's warm roll it and the towel together as tightly as you can.  Place the roll on a baking sheet and let it cool completely--I let mine go overnight so I could make the glaze.

Chocolate mirror glaze courtesy of Chef Rachida

10g gelatin sheets
210g granulated sugar
110g water
65g unsweetened cocoa powder
65g heavy whipping cream
50g dark chocolate--I used semi-sweet

Using a medium bowl filled with very cold water, place the gelatin sheets in it to bloom them--making sure they are fully submerged--for about 10 minutes.  In a medium saucepan, bring the sugar, water, cocoa powder and cream to a boil stirring constantly.  Once it's boiling, stir in the chocolate until it is completely melted.  Remove the pan from the heat while you wring out the excess water from the bloomed gelatin.  Then stir in the gelatin--excluding the water--until it's dissolved into the chocolate.  Using a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium bowl, pass the chocolate through the sieve into the bowl.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Whiskey butterscotch filling

3/4c butterscotch sauce at room temp.
1 T whiskey
2c cold heavy whipping cream

Transfer the butterscotch to a small bowl and stir in the whiskey until fully incorporated.  In the bowl of a stand mixer using the whisk attachment, beat the cream until stiff peaks form.  Then, pour the whiskey butterscotch sauce into the whipped cream and stir to fully combine the two.  Cover and refrigerate until ready for use.

To assemble

First, unroll the cake carefully.  Next, brush the moistening syrup over the entire cake and let it soak in for about 10 minutes.  Then, spread the whiskey butterscotch cream over the entire surface of the cake evenly.  Now, roll the cake back up--minus the tea towel--carefully and as tight as you can get it.  Place the rolled cake on a cooling rack of some sort that is sitting on some aluminum foil or wax paper, etc...or a rimmed baking sheet.  This is because you are going to pour the glaze over it and you want all of that dripped chocolate glaze to catch on something for ease of clean-up.  Take the cold glaze and warm it up in the microwave until it reaches 105 F.  Using a fine-mesh sieve, pass the warmed glaze through the sieve over the cake and then begin using an offset spatula to guide the glaze along the surface of the cake making sure that you cover the whole cake with glaze.  The sieve will help get rid of any bubbles in the glaze but it's not a necessity.  You'll have a lot of glaze leftover but that's not a bad thing because it's really fucking good and you can use it to cover brownies or something like that.  After you've glazed the whole cake you can decorate it with macarons or anything you like (nuts, chocolate chips, something else...) or leave it as is because it looks pretty swanky on it's own.  Lastly, refrigerate the cake for a few hours so that the glaze sets and everything is kosher before you transfer it to a serving platter or wherever it's final destination may be.

Cranberry and Gingerbread Eclairs

I made this cranberry mousse a few weeks ago intending on using it to add as a layer to a fancy cake I was making.

But that didn't work out--which is a different boring story in itself.

So I still had this mousse and I wasn't sure what to do with it until I was talking to a friend and he suggested I use it as a filling for some donuts. This seemed like a brilliant idea.

I made the dough for the donuts and a chocolate glaze to top them off with.  But that didn't work out either.  I couldn't get all of the donuts to proof and the ones that I could get to rise were like bricks when I fried them.

So I still had this fucking mousse and now I had a fucking chocolate glaze that wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. Then I thought of eclairs and everything seemed to be going in a zen direction from then on.

Eclairs are actually pretty easy to make.  Pate choux--the dough for eclairs--takes about 5 minutes to make and piping them out to make eclairs (or spooning them to make cream puffs) is a cinch.  I think they are a pretty forgiving pastry to make.

The only trouble that one might have is making sure you bake them enough to dry the insides out enough to fill them.  But I think I've figured that part out. Another thing I've noticed about pate choux is that a little dough goes a long way.

The recipe I use makes a lot of 4 inch eclairs.  In fact, I used up all of my cranberry mousse and still had over a dozen unfilled eclairs left.  So, I had to come up with another filling.

And in the spirit of it being the holiday season, gingerbread flavored pastry cream seemed to be appropriate.


Cranberry mousse:

12oz or 1 bag of fresh cranberries
2c granulated sugar
2c heavy whipping cream
1/4c orange juice (I used freshly squeezed)
1 1/2 tsp gelatin

In a medium saucepan over medium heat combine and cook the cranberries, sugar and orange juice until the cranberries start to pop.  It took me between 20-30 minutes if memory serves.  Once they have all popped, remove the pan from the heat and pour the cranberries into a blender or food processor and puree them until you have smooth mixture.  Pour the pureed cranberries back into the saucepan and stir in the gelatin.  Turn the heat back onto medium-low and cook until the cranberries thicken and can coat the back of a spoon--which took me about 10 minutes.  Remove them from the heat and let them cool completely, then put them in the fridge for at least an hour to get them cold. Once the cranberries are cold, place the cream in a large mixing bowl and whisk (either with a hand-held mixer or a standing one) until stiff peaks are formed.  Remove the cranberry sauce/jelly from the fridge and fold them into the whipped cream until you have a cohesive mixture.  Use immediately or store them in a covered container in the fridge.

Gingerbread flavored pastry cream:

4 large egg yolks
1/3c sugar
2T all-purpose flour
2T cornstarch
1 1/2c milk
1T vanilla extract or paste
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves

In the bowl of stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the yolks, sugar, flour and cornstarch until pale yellow and a bit thicker--about 2 minutes.  Set aside.  Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat the milk to a very light simmer or just until bubbles start to form around the edges of the pan.  Once that happens, remove the pan of warm milk from the stove.  While whisking constantly, pour about a third of the warm milk into the egg mixture until well combined.  Once you've whisked it, pour the egg/warm milk mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the milk and return it to the stove. While whisking constantly over medium heat, cook the pastry cream until it becomes thicker and begins to bubble. Once it starts to bubble, cook it for about 45-60 seconds longer still whisking.  I can't emphasize enough the importance of constantly whisking the pastry cream over the heat because if you don't you can easily burn the bottom of it and then you'll have to sift out burnt portions of pastry cream and that just sucks (I speak from experience).  Lastly, remove the pastry cream from the heat, add in the vanilla and spices and whisk to combine. Scrape the pastry cream into a clean bowl, place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the surface of it and let it cool completely--you can also place it in the fridge to speed up the process but just make sure the plastic wrap is sitting directly on top of the pastry cream.

Pate choux (choux paste):

1c water
1 stick of butter
1/2 tsp salt
1c all-purpose flour
4 large eggs

In a medium saucepan, combine the water, butter and salt.  Over high heat, bring the mixture to a boil.  Once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and add the flour all at once and begin to stir it rapidly.  Continue stirring--the mixture will begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and form a sort of dough/paste mass in the middle.  Once this happens continue to cook it while stirring constantly for another minute or two in order to cook off some more of the water.  Then, remove the saucepan from the heat and let it cool down for about 5 minutes--before you add the eggs you don't want the dough/paste to be too hot or else you'll cook them too quickly but at the same time you want the dough somewhat warm/hot.  After your 5 minute cool-down, add each egg one at a time stirring after each addition until the egg is fully incorporated.  It might look like the dough is breaking up but just keep stirring and it will come back together.  Once you've added in each egg, let the dough cool to room temperature--or again you can place it in the fridge with a piece of plastic wrap over it.

Chocolate glaze:

1/2c unsalted butter
1/4c whole milk
1T light corn syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
4oz semi-sweet chocolate
2c powdered sugar

Combine the butter, milk, corn syrup and vanilla in a medium sauce pan.  Heat over low until the butter is melted and everything is fully combined.  Once the butter is melted, add the chocolate and stir over low heat until it's all melted.  Remove the mixture from the heat and whisk in the powdered sugar until it's fully incorporated.  Use immediately or set aside to cool a bit.  But if you wait too long to use it, you may have to warm it up a tad before you glaze the eclairs because otherwise the glaze might be too thick.

To assemble:

First, bake the eclairs.  Line a sheet pan with either parchment paper or a silicone mat.  Preheat the oven to 425 F.  Place the choux paste into a piping bag fitted with a plain half inch tip.  Pipe 4" long logs onto the sheet pans leaving about a 2" separation around each log--you'll end up with a couple dozen of them--not all on one baking sheet.  Place the sheet pan in the oven and bake for 10 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 350 F and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes longer--I tend to go the full 20 minutes to make sure I dry out the middles of each eclair.  Remove the eclairs from the oven and let cool completely on a cooling rack.

Once the eclairs are cool, place the cranberry mousse into a piping bag fitting with a plain 1/4"-1/2" tip.  Do the same with the gingerbread flavored pastry cream.  Using a sharp paring knife, cut a little slit on each end of the eclair.  Carefully insert one of the tips of the filled piping bags into each slit and pipe in the filling slowly.  Fill them to your liking but I usually fill them until I inflate the empty eclair a bit--I judge this by feeling along the length of the eclair and making sure the filling has reached the entirety of it.  Fill as many eclairs as you can using all of the filling.  I had some empty eclairs leftover which I just placed in an air tight container and froze for another day.

Now for the chocolate glaze...  If your glaze has cooled and is too thick to dip an eclair in and glaze it then place it in the microwave for about 10 second intervals until it is at a consistency where dipping is possible.  Once you have a good dipping consistency, dip each filled eclair into the glaze.  Set aside to the allow the glaze to set.

Eat eclair.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Apple Strudel

This was supposed to be easy-ish.  The filling was.  But the dough was another thing.

It's not actually making the dough that was hard--that part is a cinch.  It's manipulating it once it's made.

You have to do a lot of pulling and tugging and stretching to it--until you get it tissue paper thin. And when you get it tissue paper thin, it tears so easily.

So you start over and then start over again and then realize that it's not going to stop tearing so you just learn to live with the fact that your strudel dough is going to look like Freddy Kruger's wretchedly burnt skin.

And then you sigh to yourself and come to the conclusion that making strudel dough and rolling it out is something that probably just takes practice--something German and Austrian bakers have been doing for centuries or something like that.

It was sort of a frustrating endeavour but on the plus side, it tasted really good!

I do have one note about assembly.. I suggest that once the dough is rolled out, do one of two things: Either place it over a piece of parchment paper or silpat that you will then transfer to the baking sheet.  Or, find a second person to help you pick it up and transfer it to the baking sheet.  I suggest this because I did not do either of these and once the strudel is rolled out, it's kind of unwieldy.  It took a bit of maneuvering to get it in place after I rolled it out and I was cursing myself for not thinking ahead.

From the beautiful blog,

Dough ingredients:

1/3c/80g lukewarm water
1T+1/2tsp/15g vegetable oil
1/2tsp vinegar or lemon juice
1/8tsp table salt
1c + 2T/145g all-purpose flour
1/2tsp vegetable oil for brushing dough
flour for dusting

Filling ingredients:

3 1/2T/50g unsalted butter
3/4c/100g fine plain bread crumbs
5T/65g granulated sugar
1/2tsp ground cinnamon
4T/50g raisins
3T rum or lukewarm water
2lbs tart apples--I used granny smith
1T lemon juice
2T melted butter for brushing dough
confectioners sugar for dusting the finished product

For the dough:

-Using a big bowl, mix the lukewarm water, oil and lemon juice together
-Add in the flour and mix until everything comes together
-Knead the dough on a clean, lightly dusted work surface until it is tacky but not sticky
-Slam the dough against your counter a few times.  According to, this helps promote gluten development.
-Shape the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl.  Brush the dough with oil, cover with plastic wrap and set aside at room temp. for 1 hour

For the filling:

-Using a small bowl, soak the raisins in the rum--or lukewarm water--for at least 10 minutes
-Using a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat
-Add the breadcrumbs to toast them stirring them constantly so you don't burn them.  You want them golden brown.  Remove them from the heat and let cool completely.
-In a small separate bowl, mix the sugar and cinnamon together and set aside
-Peel, core and slice the apples into 1/8-1/4 inch wedges or slices
-Using a large bowl toss the apples with the lemon juice and the raisins (not the rum)
-Once the bread crumbs are cool, mix them with the cinnamon and sugar mixture and set aside

To assemble:

-Start by rolling out the dough on a lightly floured clean surface
-When it starts getting about somewhere between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick, start to stretch it gently with your hands and or place the dough over the back of your hand and use the back of your fingers/knuckles to stretch it ( has a good tutorial on this--although I do think it requires practice)
-Then when it gets to be too big or thin to handle, place it  back on the work surface and lightly stretch it to a large rectangular shape--trying to avoid tearing it all the meanwhile.  You want it to be paper thin (so you can basically see through it) so whatever sized rectangle it takes you to reach that goal, then that's the size.  It will be a big rectangle.
-Once you have your rectangle, move it to a silpat or piece of parchment paper that will allow you to transfer the rolled up strudel to the baking sheet with some ease
-Next, spread the bread crumb mixture over half of the dough leaving about an inch or two around the edges
-Spread the apple/raisin mixture atop the bread crumbs evenly
-Then, fold the edges in--about an inch or two--and starting with the filled end, carefully roll the thang
-Transfer the rolled strudel to a baking sheet (good luck!)
-Brush the rolled strudel with the remaining 2T of melted butter and set aside while you preheat the oven to 375 F
-Bake the strudel for 30 minutes
-Remove from the oven and let cool completely, dust with confectioners sugar and then slice it up and enjoy--it maybe with some whipped cream or vanilla ice cream...