Sunday, August 31, 2008

3 is definitely an unlucky number...

Daring Bakers Challenge #3 completed-barely completed but none the less completed. I was a little relieved when I saw that the recipe was eclairs and that it looked fairly simple. Yes I thought this will be a nice challenge for a really busy month. I went to my moms for a nice relaxing dinner with everyone and decided to make the eclairs for desert.

First batch: everything was going well, I started with the dough and things went pretty smooth, I put them in the oven and began baking away. I reread the recipe while they were baking and noticed I had put 1/4 CUP of sugar instead of the called for 1/4 TEASPOON. Crap! I thought I might be able to get away with it but they didn't rise at all. I decided to shake it off and begin again.

Second batch: I made the second batch this time with the correct measurements. They started baking and I used the spoon in the door method as the recipe said and they just didn't seem to puff up. I baked for even longer when I finally threw the spoon idea out the window and shut the door hoping that the heat would make them rise.

Very bad news: at this moment a knock on the door. Neighbors told my mom that our little Maltese Gus (who is the most precious dog you will ever meet) was hit by a suburban. I completely freaked out and took out my eclairs ready or not. They brought us our dog and he was bleeding in the head. We rushed him to the hospital pretty much knowing that there had to be internal bleeding and that he wouldn't make it. Long story short, after waiting 3 hours at the vet he was able to get an x ray and no broken bones and no internal bleeding! He is still recovering but it looks like he will be ok. Whew!!
My little sister putting a heat pack on his cut so it wont get infected. Poor Gus!

So, for my third daring bakers challenge my dog almost died and it took the third time trying the eclairs out to get them to work. So I guess third times a charm, right? Ok back to the challenge...

Third Batch: I chucked the opening the door with a spoon idea out the window. I looked at other eclair recipes and tried a new baking method. This time keep the door closed and just alternate the baking temperature. So for those of you who aren't sick of reading this very very long post enjoy the following step by step pics...
The beautiful cream puff dough

Ready to bake in the oven (this is the first batch
so little do they know that they aren't going to make it!)

Pancake eclairs!

Now that's an eclair! The third batch finally made it,
after ignoring the stupid (yes stupid!) spoon in the door method

Just to show you the difference...

Filled with chocolate pastry cream, next time I will
do vanilla.

Chocolate glaze over the topVuala! Finally completed. It took me a while to get these babies to look
normal but they are finally done. Like I said, next time I think I will do
vanilla pastry cream but the chocolate was still divine.
Check out how the other Daring Bakers did here!
Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• Cream Puff Dough (see below for recipe), fresh and still warm

1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Divide the oven into thirds by
positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with
waxed or parchment paper.

2) Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough.
Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 41/2 inches (about 11 cm) chubby fingers.
Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff.
The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.

3) Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip the
handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the
oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue
baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking
time should be approximately 20 minutes.

1) The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.

Assembling the éclairs:

• Chocolate glaze (see below for recipe)
• Chocolate pastry cream (see below for recipe)

1) Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside the
bottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.

2) The glaze should be barely warm to the touch (between 95 – 104 degrees F or 35 – 40
degrees C, as measured on an instant read thermometer). Spread the glaze over the tops of
the éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the
bottoms with the pastry cream.

3) Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottoms
with enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry cream
and wriggle gently to settle them.

1) If you have chilled your chocolate glaze, reheat by placing it in a bowl over simmering water,
stirring it gently with a wooden spoon. Do not stir too vigorously as you do not want to create

2) The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.

Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• ½ cup (125g) whole milk
• ½ cup (125g) water
• 1 stick (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
• ¼ teaspoon sugar
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
• 5 large eggs, at room temperature

1) In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the

2) Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium
and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very
quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You
need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough
will be very soft and smooth.

3) Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your
handmixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time,
beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough.
You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do
not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time you
have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it
should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.

4) The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.

1) Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately.

2) You can pipe the dough and the freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined baking
sheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the
piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.

Chocolate Pastry Cream
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by PierreHermé

• 2 cups (500g) whole milk
• 4 large egg yolks
• 6 tbsp (75g) sugar
• 3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
• 7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Velrhona Guanaja, melted
• 2½ tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1) In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy‐bottomed saucepan.

2) Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture.Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.

3) Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat).Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.

4) Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth.

5) Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.

1) The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

2) In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.

3) Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.

Chocolate Glaze
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 1 cup or 300g)

• 1/3 cup (80g) heavy cream
• 3½ oz (100g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 4 tsp (20 g) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
• 7 tbsp (110 g) Chocolate Sauce (recipe below), warm or at room temperature

1)In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.

2) Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.

1) If the chocolate glaze is too cool (i.e. not liquid enough) you may heat it briefly
 in the microwave or over a double boiler. A double boiler is basically a bowl sitting over (not touching) simmering water.

2) It is best to glaze the eclairs after the glaze is made, but if you are pressed for time, you can make the glaze a couple days ahead of time, store it in the fridge and bring it up to the proper temperature (95 to 104 F) when ready to glaze.

Chocolate Sauce
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 1½ cups or 525 g)

• 4½ oz (130 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 1 cup (250 g) water
• ½ cup (125 g) crème fraîche, or heavy cream
• 1/3 cup (70 g) sugar

1) Place all the ingredients into a heavy‐bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly. Then reduce the heat to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.

2) It may take 10‐15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon.

1) You can make this sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for two weeks. Reheat the sauce in a microwave oven or a double boiler before using.
2) This sauce is also great for cakes, ice-cream and tarts.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Cupcake pops poppin up again!

Last week I made the cupcake pops again, only this time with a little twist. I didn't have time to make a cake, so instead for the inside of the pop I made an oreo truffle (one bag crushed oreos mixed with 8 oz cream cheese). I have to say I think I liked these pops better than the original ones. You just can't go wrong with the oreo truffle filling. Also, my second attempt with these pops was a lot better than the first. Wasn't as time consuming and I think I am getting the hang of it!

Bouquet of cupcake pops! I really like the color scheme I used
this time, a little more fun than the other ones.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Happy Birthday Micah! And Welcome Home Matt!

Well this past week has definitely been a busy and exciting one. It was my sweethearts 24th birthday on the 13th and on that same day his brother Matt was coming home after serving a LDS mission in Italy for two years. I decided to make a big happy birthday/welcome cake for the occasion. I made a cookies n cream cake with a chocolate buttercream filling with crushed oreos and then vanilla buttercream on the outside. It was pretty good, but, unfortunately we didn't get to eat it with everyone. Matt's plane was given the wrong flight plans forcing him to be 3 hours late to the airport. But all was well when he finally arrived! I was however stuck with quite a bit of cake so I took it the next day to my parents and ate it in celebration of my dads birthday as well as Micah's.
I had to put a side shot of the cake on because the stripes of fondant
on the edges of the cake took me forever!

Me with the finished product

Micah and I at Benihana's for his b day dinner
right before we head to the airport
to pick up Matt.

Waiting anxiously at the airport!
Make a wish!
Happy birthday Micah!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Mama Mia!

A few days ago my mom came over to my inlaws to teach me, my mother in law, my cousin in law, sister, and sister in law a thing or two about making home made pizzas. My mother in law was particularly excited because she is Italian, but we were all excited to taste these delicious pies. The night started out pretty mellow, but with a Greek mother and an Italian mother in law it didn't stay that way for long...

My cousin started chopping the red onions for the pizzas,
when her eyes got teary I told her about my trick
and gave her some sunglasses...but my mother in law had a better idea...

Good thinkin Binc! That will definitely do the trick!

My mother in law Bianca, and my mom Penny
holding up the beautifully risen pizza dough.
I decided to try to get in touch with my Italian side
by trying out a pizza dough toss...
My cousin in law Tanya was a lot better, must be an Italian thing.
Next time I might try shouting "oopa!" as I toss, maybe my Greek side
will give me the oomph that I need to make that baby fly!

Now for the toppings, ready for this? Fresh mozzarella, fontina
(yes pricy, but worth it!), fresh tomatoes, red onion, and fresh basil from the garden
Mama mia now that's a pizza! It is probably the closest
thing you could get to without having to hop on a plane
to have a true Italian thin crust. My mother in law bought a stone from
Williams Sonoma for pizza's, it was supposed to give them that true fire oven taste, but to be honest, we liked the plain old cookie sheets the best. We felt it gave the pizza's a crispier crust.