Saturday, August 30, 2008

Daring Bakers - Pierre Hermé's Éclairs

Mmmmm this Daring Baker's challenge was one of the most delicious and awesome ones I have had the pleasure of experiencing!  This month was hosted by Meeta and Tony Tahan, and they had us all make Pierre Hermé's incredible Chocolate Éclairs.  

I was so excited to make these because I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE éclairs but I had never made any before.  I had never even tried my hand at choux pastry.  I'm almost ashamed to say it, considering just how much I enjoy éclairs and cream puffs and anything else in that variety of sweets.  I had always meant to try to make choux pastries... but something else to bake always seemed to come up.  And these situations are exactly what Daring Baker's challenges are for, right?  Right!  So this challenge was so right for me!  Thanks, hosts!

The challenge recipe was for an eclair filled with chocolate pastry cream and topped with a chocolate glaze, and we had the option of using both or either the filling or glaze recipes given.  

I mentioned that I LOVE éclairs, and what I love most about éclairs is the burst of cold, refreshing, lightly sweetened vanilla custard you get when you bite into them.  To me, éclairs are allll about that perfect custard cream filling.   So I was a bit apprehensive of a chocolate filling.  

But I decided to try it anyways, just because it was something I had never done, and I made little chocolate cream puffs that I sprinkled with powdered sugar.  They were pretty ridiculously delicious, but they weren't the refreshing perfection that I craved.  So I made some more choux, and whipped up these traditionally flavored éclairs!  

They were absolutely incredible, and so fun to make!  All the piping, and dipping, and finger-licking... oh my...  I filled some with vanilla pastry cream, and I guess I was getting a little heavy handed with that because I ran out of pastry cream.  So I filled the remaining few with whipped cream and those were incredible as well!  I think I'm just obsessed with all kinds of cream...

I will absolutely make these again, and I'm excited now to perfect my éclair making skills and make myself ridiculously fat.  =)

Don't forget to check out the blogs of all the other Daring Bakers, because they all made some beautiful and mouth watering pastries this month!  

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Beachy Delicious

Are you intrigued by this burning donut of a plate?  

I could say something profound right now about how behind every spectacular dessert, there are spectacular burns and spectacular damage, but it wouldn't be true.  

The truth is simply this:  fire + girls + yummy things to cook on fire + things to destroy = severe banana induced burns.  

Shortly after this picture was taken, we poured coke over a towel to save it from burning.  We're smart girls.  =)  And shortly after that, we ate theeessseee burning babies of yum:

They're bananas that we stuffed with chocolate and marshmallow, wrapped in tin foil, and let sit in the embers of our campfire.  Kind of like banana s'mores, only not really.  

Seriously, these were sooo good, and I don't even like bananas.  I think this must be a really common camping dessert, because I remember that we always used to make these on our girl scout camping trips when I was a little girl.  I think they're so much fun to make, just for the fun of wrapping up your dessert, sticking it in a nice fire, and then getting to unwrap it and see what it's become!  And sooo delicious!  I did put a little bit of cinnamon on mine, though... shhh don't tell!

And speaking of cinnamon, allow me to introduce you to my all-time favorite campfire dessert:

It may not look like much, but after one bite, you'll be hooked like a yummy salmon fish.  
Of course, this is another treat from my childhood camping times.  I used to go to summer camp, and at camp we called these Dough Boys and ate them all the time.

It's very simple to make.  You get some pre-made biscuit dough and mold it around the end of a roasting stick so that it won't fall off.  Then you roast it until the outside is mostly crispy and golden-brown.  Think that sounds good?  Here comes the real good part...

Once they come off the fire, you roll them around in butter!!!!
And then you roll them around some more in cinnamon sugar!!!!!!!!!!

And after that you die, because once you have 1, you'll have to have 6, I swear.  

And that is what I did this past Sunday.  The day before our first day of classes was a day at the beach.  I got my first sunburn in ages and I made myself sick on doughboys.  What a perfect start to a semester.  =)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Honey Soufflés with Pomegranate Glaze

Breakfast?  Indeed.

I totally made this on a whim, which means that the recipe below is less of a real recipe and more of a "what I did."  But it worked!  And it was soo delicious.  The tartness of the glaze went perfectly with the smooth, intense sweetness of the honey.  If I made this again I would probably change some things in the soufflé recipe, for experimental and perfectionist purposes, but to be honest it was really delicious as it was!

Pomegranate Glaze

1/2 cup pomegranate juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp lemon juice

Combine all 3 ingredients in a small saucepan, and heat over medium high heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture reduces.  Take off the heat and set aside.  You may need to warm up the glaze again before serving, to get it to a pour-able consistency.  

Honey Soufflé

1/4 cup honey
1 egg yolk
1 egg white
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp granulated sugar
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 425 F.  Butter and sugar 4 ramekins, and prepare a water bath.  
In one mixing bowl, whisk together the honey and the egg yolk, and then mix in the flour.
In another bowl, whip the egg white with a pinch of salt until you get soft peaks.  Add the granulated sugar and continue whipping until you get stiff peaks. 
Add a little bit of the whipped egg whites to the honey mixture to lighten it.  Then fold the honey mixture into the rest of the egg whites, carefully, just until no streaks are left.  
Pour the batter into the four ramekins, filling them about halfway.  Place the ramekins in the water bath and into the oven.  
Immediately lower the temperature to 400 F.  Bake for 10 minutes at this temperature.
Lower the temperature to 350 F and bake for another 10 minutes.  
Lower the temperature to 300 F and bake for another 10 minutes.  
Then turn the oven off, and leave in the oven with the door closed for 15 to 20 minutes.
When they come out of the oven, invert the soufflés onto plates and drizzle them with the pomegranate glaze.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Daring Bakers Cake turned MACARON! weeee

What to do with leftover buttercream, preserves, nuts, and ganache?  
Seriously, this cake's leftovers were screaming macarons.  
So we get cashew macarons with peach preserves, cashew praline buttercream, and dark chocolate ganache with grand marnier.  Tastes just like the gateau.  But much more fun.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Daring Bakers - Filbert (read: cashew) Gateau with Praline Buttercream!

This is what happens when Allison is reunited with an oven after two months of basically living in a hotel.  I like to think it was a magical reunion.  =)

I got back from Japan Wednesday night, when alll the other Daring Bakers were posting about this wonderful cake, brought to us by July's host, Chris of Mele Cotte, and all I could do was pass out in bed and dream about it since I had been up and riding planes for the previous 30 hours.  4 countries in 1 day, baby!!!!  But no cake to show for it... yet!

So naturally the first thing I did when I woke up yesterday was plan out my baking schedule for the next week.  I decided this cake should come first because, even though I missed the posting date, it's close enough that this can count as a late post rather than a skipped month... hopefully?  And also because my grandmother's birthday was in June, and I know she loves praline and chocolate, and she happens to be visiting us in Canada this week.  

I had my doubts about this cake before starting it... I wasn't really sure how all the flavors would work together, and while I know hazelnuts and chocolate to be a killer combination, the idea of hazelnut praline with apricot and chocolate was kind of rubbing me the wrong way.  So I decided to use cashews instead, since I had never used cashews in anything before, and I guess I was just in a cashew mood.  I am generally not a fan of apricots, and my mom had about 40 peaches in a huge basket in our kitchen that she was begging me to do something with... so I made a year's worth of peach preserves and used some of that for the cake!  And ooh it was peachy.   Also, my grandmother doesn't like rum, so I just used grand marnier and vanilla throughout.  However, in the peach preserves, I added some lychee liqueur and cinnamon.  

Every Friday, my dad's band comes over and they practice their rockin' music in our garage.  Lucky for my cake, today is Friday!  So it was eaten and well appreciated after band practice, and then was packed up in yogurt containers and sent off to the band members' wives.  

Everyone loved it, even my mom who always says she doesn't like buttercream (but who eats it every time I make it!).  I was actually surprised at how awesome it was!  I think I will definitely make this cake again in the future - definitely.  Cause it was prettty ridiculously wonderful.
So thanks Chris!  I don't think I would have made this cake normally after just looking at the recipe, but I'm so glad you gave me a reason to because it turned out to be incredible!!  YAY for Daring Bakers!!  

If you're interested in making this cake, get the recipe from the host's blog here!