Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie 12: Creme Brulee

Well, I know that some people have just drooled all over their keyboard just reading the title of this post. Creme brulee = heaven. I am yet to come across someone that doesn't like Creme Brulee. Even my lactose intolerant friend loves them. My mum is a massive fan, but she doesn't get to eat them often. After completing this week's recipe, I think it's safe to say that there is going to be a whole lot more Creme Brulee in my life now. I've never attempted one before- mainly because I don't own a blow torch. When it was announced that Mari of Mevrouw Cupcake had chosen Creme Brulee, I literally shuddered. I had an awful experience a couple of months ago attempting Dorie's 'Caramel topped Flan', so the very thought of another baked custard nearly sent me screaming. I admit, I was a little excited though- afterall, it could possibly turn out amazing... right? YES! Oh how wonderful it was... not a scrambled egg in sight!

Even though I was more than happy with the outcome, I did have some problems. Not having a blow torch, I opted for the 'grill' option. For those of you that are not from Australia, this is the equivalent to a broiler. Unfortunately, it just wasn't the same as the blow torch method. In order to blister them, they were under the grill for quite a while, causing the custard to liquify more than I would have liked. Also, the custard started to split a little from the intense, prolonged heat. I also couldn't get the brulee part as crispy as I would have liked either. I can only imagine how delicious these would be done with a torch.

I would love to experiment with other flavours now I have overcome my fear of baked custards (doesn't mean I'll be attempting that flan again anytime soon though). The only addition I made was to add in half a vanilla bean. The speckles just look so beautiful against the custard. The beans I buy feel and look like soft leather- not dry at all. It's quite amazing and they are full of moist beans- with an incredible scent.

Don't forget to check out Mari's blog for the recipe, or to check out the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie gang.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie 11: Dimply Plum Cake... Sans Plums!

One of these days I think I'll have to stop writing the number of week's I've been participating in Tuesdays with Dorie... it'll get too long! I think I worked out that by the time I get to choose a recipe, it will be 3 years from now! I thought I joined far too late to even get to choose a recipe, so that's pretty exciting.

This week's recipe was chosen by Michelle of Bake-en. I wasn't particularly looking forward to this recipe I must admit. I had seen it in the book a few times whilst flicking through, and the thought of plums in a cake perplexed me. I'm not a big fan of fruits in cakes as it is, but a plum!? That's crazy talk. Anyway, as it were, there are not plums available in Australia at the moment. No stone fruits at all. So, I decided to go with blueberries- how adventurous! Everything tastes better with blueberries! In hindsight, I should have chosen a much juicier fruit, or added a whole lot more blueberries (I only studded the tops with them). I hadn't taken notice of Dorie's note, likening this cake to cornbread. The cake was so dry! I didn't even over bake it... Dry! Even so, the flavour of the cake was nice. Instead of cardamom and orange zest, I used cinnamon and lemon zest. I will definitely attempt this cake again once the Summer fruits hit our stores.

One last thing- S wants the world to know (or whoever reads my little blog...) that he is the mastermind (modest I know) behind all of the photo's on my blog. He's even threatening me with watermarking them! Thanks S!

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Birthday Cake Surprise for D...

It was my birthday last month, and my friend D surprised me with the most wonderful cookbook ever- Desserts by Pierre Herme. I'm not sure about the rest of the world, but here in Australia, it is very difficult to get your hands on Pierre Herme's books. Even on Amazon it's a nightmare because a lot of places won't post to Australia. Amazingly he was able to find one that shipped here and now I have this fantastic book! It's hard to describe how excited I was... But now I want ALL of his books.

Well yesterday was D's birthday and I thought 'what kind of friend would I be if I didn't make him a cake from the most fabulous book ever, by the most fabulous pastry chef ever'? I was going to let him choose a cake, but I decided to keep it a secret and surprise him. He is in the middle of doing Honours in Mathematics, so basically all year he has been stressed out and working non stop. I'm sure he would be at uni much later than 12:16am but unfortunately for him, that is the last ferry home. Anyway, as I was saying, it was his birthday yesterday and since he has an upcoming assignment, he was planning on spending the whole day at uni by himself- no birthday celebrations whatsoever! I'm a massive birthday person so couldn't let the poor guy celebrate alone. Unfortunately for me, I hadn't been to his room at uni before so had no idea how I was going to find him- S and I just rocked up and wandered aimlessly. Eventually we found the mathematics building, which led us to the Honours student's room. When we got there the room was empty, so we admitted defeat and called D to find out where the hell he was! Turns out we were way off... I was so dissapointed because it would have been the best surprise ever had we been able to pull it off. Regardless, D was still super surprised which was great.

Back to the cake. I've noticed that D can't really handle rich cakes or desserts made of chocolate (yet he can eat an entire block of milkyway? Yuck), so I chose Pierre Herme's 'Melody' cake. It consists of a thin layer of cinnamon pastry, topped with a thin slice of genois, followed by a helping of 20 hour apples (yes they were as tedious as they sound!), with a layer of cinnamon bavarian cream, adding another slice of genois and another cinnamon pastry disc, and finally a spiral of apples on top glazed with apricot jam! Definitely a challenging cake I must say. There were just so many steps and ingredients, so I was really hoping it would pay off! I must say overall I was impressed with the cake- not my favourite ever, but quite delicious nonetheless. I would definitely make it again and hopefully it would be much easier now that I've done it once already.

Happy Birthday D!

Not so good lighting at D's uni...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie 10: Chocolate Chunkers

Well I just have to say that I am SO glad next week's Tuesdays with Dorie is NOT a cookie! I have never made so many cookies in my life... Personally I prefer really simple cookies so the addition of all these nuts and fruits over the past couple of weeks has meant that they have not been getting eaten (by me anyway... S is another story). So I wasn't really surprised when I tasted a chocolate chunker and didn't really like it. I should have halved the recipe as it ended up making more than I thought it would. We (and by we, of course I mean S) ate about a quarter of them, the other quarter went in the bin and I have a freezer full of left over cookies to be baked sometime in the future! I'll probably bake them and palm them off when I can next.

Now I am all for 'playing around' as Dorie calls it, but S won't have a bar of it! I really wanted to add dried sour cherries or dried cranberries instead of the raisins but being the purist that he is, he wouldn't allow it. He even saw that Dorie's picture had white chocolate chips and insisted we use them- we both strongly dislike white chocolate... Instead of peanuts I also wanted to use toasted pecans but really I was fighting a lost cause. I'm sure I would have enjoyed these more with those substitutes.

I don't like giving away up coming Tuesday with Dorie recipes but I am in a bit of a pickle about the next one. A recipe has been chosen which requires summer fruits, but it has only just hit Spring here so we don't have anything available yet. I have some idea's for a substitute so hopefully it works!

The chocolate chunkers were chosen by Claudia of Fool for Food.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie 9: Chocolate Whopper Malted Drops

I've got a serious case of the flu right now, so i'll keep this week's post very short. This week's Tuesdays with Dorie was chosen by Rachel of Confessions of a Tangerine Tart. I'm not a very big fan of malt flavours or Maltesers (we don't have 'whoppers' in Australia), but S absolutely loved them.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie 8: Chunky Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters

Tuesdays with Dorie again! This week's recipe was chosen by Stefany of Proceed with Caution. These cookies may have the longest name in the world, but they are very simple to make. I quite like making cookies every week, because it doesn't require too much effort if you are busy, but they are so satisfying! For these cookies, I baked a tray of 6, then I put the rest of the dough, rolled into a long, into the freezer. I haven't done that before, but it was great being able to cut off a few cookies when I wanted them, and eat them freshly baked. I found it quite hard to actually cut the cookies off the log though, so I was thinking that next time I'll freeze the cookies already cut into single cookies so I can just put them straight onto the baking tray- no cutting involved! I found these cookies are nice and crispy straight out of the oven, but after a few hours they become a bit soft. So I have really warmed to this idea of freezing the dough. It's also good for the hips because I'm not 'forced' into eating all the cookies at once, while they are at their best.

Overall I enjoyed these cookies- not my favourite but still tasty. The nutmeg really shone through.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Daring Bakers 3: Chocolate Eclairs

Not again! I am posting this one day late (in my part of the world), as I did last month too. I have been waiting to post this month's Daring Bakers challenge for weeks, and when the day finally arrives it simply slips my mind? Anyway, I'm here now!

This month's hosts were Tony Tahhan and MeetaK, and what a fantastic challenge it was. I've said it once but i'll say it again- I love the variety of things I am baking now. Before I would usually stick to the same old things, so it has been great! I was over the moon when I saw this month's challenge was Chocolate Eclairs by none other than the God of pastry himself- Pierre Herme (insert cheering). Could my month get any better? I love Pierre Herme, I love chocolate, I love eclairs and I have never got around to making choux pastry before.

Usually I can't wait and I'll pretty much do the challenge as soon as it's posted, but this month I was a little busy and had to wait a couple of weeks. After reading people's comments and frustrations I must admit I was genuinely scared. Well, there must be a reason I haven't attempted choux pastry before! From what I had heard beforehand, choux pastry is relatively simple to make. Fear aside I went ahead and made sure I had read every problem people had had, and also many tips ensuring perfect eclairs. I must have missed something... My first batch puffed up beautifully in the oven, but as soon as I took them out they collapsed into a soggy mess! A combination I think of my eclairs being too big and not enough cooking time. Ahh well... my second attempt proved much more fruitful. I made the eclairs smaller and made sure they were well baked before removing them. Once they were out of the oven I made a small incision to let the steam out (to prevent them from going soggy). Next time I need to work on making the eclairs more uniform in shape. It was really hard to pipe the choux pastry uniformly. Tartlette suggested piping one long line of choux pastry, freezing it, then cutting it into your eclair shapes. Good idea- i'll be doing this next time (though the idea of piping one huge line the same thickness is worrying since I couldn't even pipe little 10cm lines very well). Choux pastry down, chocolate glaze and chocolate pastry cream to go...

I've made pastry cream before so I wasn't too concerned. This recipe from Pierre Herme is absolutely delicious! Not that I ever doubted him. I made the pastry cream in advance to make my time baking these easier. Thankfully I did because I had so much trouble with the chocolate glaze...

My first attempt at the glaze was going well. Until I added the chocolate sauce to the chocolate glaze. It split! Horribly so... there was no way it could be saved. What a shame, because Valrhona isn't exactly cheap. On my second attempt, I made sure I paid close attention to every detail so as to avoid my previous mishap. Well the pastry God's were not on my side and my chocolate glaze split once again. Just like my first attempt- when I added the chocolate sauce to the chocolate glaze... I was not going to waste anymore Valrhona so I ended up just topping the eclairs with a ganache. I think the glaze would have been wonderful had it worked out though. From what I gather, I may have been going wrong with the melting of the chocolate and butter together? Maybe I had it on too high a heat and it was splitting from then? Honestly I am not too sure...

Overall they tasted delicious! Well worth the wait...

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 Pierre Hermé

• 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.