Eclairs with Vanilla Pastry Cream

The last time that I made choux (pronounced like shoe) pastry, was when I made a croquembouche for Shavuot a couple of years ago. It was a little bit involved as you had to make the cream puffs, the cream, dip them in chocolate or caramel and then stack them up carefully.  It came out tasty, but I felt that the cream puff shells were not crispy enough, probably because I had filled them and stacked them the day before we ate the croquembouche. (Just as an aside, Rocker Dude thinks that the word corquembouche is too pretentious, so he calls is a crokey douche and that is what we really call it in our household. He also uses it as an example of a fancy dessert).Chocolate Glazed Eclairs

We were invited out to E. and A.’s for lunch this weekend, and when I asked E. what I should bring, she told me that she had just read the post about the Chocolate Silk Pie and would please like something decadent. But after indulging in the Chocolate Silk Pie, I was chocolated out.  I needed something different. So I browsed around on Pinterest for other decadent desserts. Someone pinned a picture of an eclair pie and that started the eclair mindset.

I did a little research on different recipes and different fillings and came the Joy of Baking site. The site is wonderful and has a lot of instructional videos that show all the steps of a recipe so you can make sure that what you are making looks like it should.  I watched the video for the eclairs, and though there were a few steps, it seemed relatively simple and straightforward.

Eclairs
Eclairs

i decided to make the pastry shells and the pastry cream and chocolate glaze on Friday, but only fill the eclairs on Saturday. That way they would not get soggy.  The Little Rocker asked me if she could please help me and as I couldn’t refuse such a request, I told her that she needed to watch the video on the Joy of Baking site and tell me what to do. It worked out wonderfully. The Little Rocker updated me every few seconds with what was going on, though she didn’t allow for time lapses when the video cut to the next step while I was still mixing. We had to pause a few times :). Squeaker cooperated by sleeping and not needing to be held – and that is even more helpful than the Little Rocker wanting to mix the batter!

The shells baked up really nicely – nice and crispy on the outside and almost hollow on the inside. When they were cool I cut them in half and then dipped the tops in the chocolate glaze. I decided not to poke holes in the sides and force the cream in because as this was my first time making them and I was making them for friends, I didn’t want to take a chance that the filling would not fill the whole eclair and just settle on the side.

A bite of eclair
A bite of eclair

I felt that the glaze on the site was too thin.  Adding corn syrup and vanilla I think was unnecessary and made the glaze harder to deal with. Next time I make these, I will use a regular ganache that will harden a bit. I had to keep these refrigerated in order to keep them from being sticky.

Eclairs with Vanilla Cream Filling
Eclairs with Vanilla Cream Filling

My plan for keeping the shells nice and crispy worked! I filled them shortly before lunch and then refrigerated the finished eclairs until dessert time. Success!

FYI I am submitting this post to Aspiring Bakers #34: Choux Party (August 2013) hosted by Jasline of Foodie Baker.

Recipe (based on the Joy of Baking):

Choux Pastry:1/2 cup (65 grams) all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (55 grams) unsalted butter/margarine, cut into pieces
1/2 cup (120 ml) water
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Glaze (optional):
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Pastry Cream:
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) whole milk/soy milk
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup (50 grams) white sugar
2 tablespoons (20 grams) all-purpose flour
2 scant tablespoons (15 grams) cornstarch
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Chocolate Glaze:
2 ounces (55 grams) semi sweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy/whipping cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. To make all the eclairs the same size, you can use a template. Take a piece of parchment paper and draw 12 – 3 1/2 inch (8.5 cm) lines, spacing the lines about 2 – 3 inches (5 – 7 cm) apart. Place the template under your parchment paper so you can use it as a guide.

In a bowl whisk the flour with the sugar and salt. Place the butter and water in a saucepan over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add the flour mixture all at once, and stir until combined. Return saucepan to the heat and stir constantly until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan and forms a thick smooth ball (about 1-2 minutes). Transfer the dough to your electric mixer (can do this by hand or with a hand mixer), and beat on low speed to release the steam from the dough (about 1 minute). Once the dough is lukewarm start adding the lightly beaten eggs (dough will separate and then come together) and continue to mix until you have a smooth thick paste (dough will fall from a spoon in a thick ribbon). Place the dough in a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip and pipe 12 oblongs of dough (about 3/4 inch (2 cm) wide) onto the baking sheet (using template as a guide). If desired, with a pastry brush, gently brush the tops of the dough with a lightly beaten egg.

Bake for 15 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Continue to bake for a further 25 minutes or until the shells are a nice amber color and when split, are almost dry inside. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. If they are not dry inside then poke two holes on the bottom of each eclair with a toothpick or a skewer. Turn off the oven and let the eclairs cool in the oven with the door slightly ajar. This will help dry them out inside.

In a heatproof bowl, mix the sugar and egg yolks together. Whisk the flour with the cornstarch and then add to the egg mixture, mixing until you get a smooth paste.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan bring the milk just to a boil (just until milk starts to foam up.) Remove from heat and add slowly to egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling. (If you did get a little curdling, then pour the mixture through a strainer.) Then pour the egg mixture into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until boiling, whisking constantly. When it boils, keep whisking constantly for another 30 – 60 seconds until the pastry cream becomes thick. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. (For a chocolate pastry cream stir in 2 ounces (55 grams) finely chopped semi sweet chocolate. For a mocha flavor add 1 1/2 teaspoons instant coffee or espresso powder to the hot milk.) Pour the pastry cream into a clean bowl and immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming. Cool to room temperature then refrigerate until firm (can be made up to 3 days ahead). Whisk or stir before using to get rid of any lumps that may have formed.

Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream just until boiling and immediately pour it over the chocolate. Gently stir until the chocolate has melted.

Split the pastry shells in half, lengthwise. Take the top shell and dip into the chocolate glaze, letting the excess drip off. Place on a wire rack to dry. Fill the bottom half (can spoon or pipe) with the cream. Once the glaze is dry, gently place the top half of the pastry shell on the cream. Can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for two days.

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Chocolate….Silk Pie

And now for something a little different. No stone fruit this week. This week is all about chocolate. Smooth and silky and rich chocolate.

Creamy chocolate.
Creamy chocolate.

For the past few weeks I have been really enjoying the peach season. Unfortunately, the cherry crop this year was not so successful so I am having trouble letting myself buy a tiny container of cherries for an exorbitant amount of money. It’s just not happening this year. Hopefully next year there will be a better crop and I can add some variety to the stone fruit season. Even apricots seemed to have an unusually short season this year. They were in stores for about a month, maybe less. I feel like I turned around and they were gone. So I apologize for the lack of apricot recipes as well.Chocolate Silk Pie

But enough of fruit. I know what you all really love, chocolate! And to think that when I was a kid I hated chocolate.  Apparently I just never had any well-made chocolate desserts until I was an adult. When I was trying to decide what to make this week, I honestly felt at a loss. Actually it was more than that – there is a Hebrew expression – choser onim – which basically means helpless, but much more so – like you have no direction and you can’t see success anywhere. That was me. I had no idea what to make – for dinner, for dessert – nada. So I started with what I needed to use – the vegetables from our csa. Okay, pumpkin souffle. Done, Chicken… prepared bbq sauce. Done. Dessert… okay now we are stumped.  Fruit? Not really in the mood for making a pie crust. Chocolate? What about it? Just brownies or something fancier? On top of my indecision, I also had social events to plan around, first and foremost  was Rocker Dude’s premier as a singer!

Rocker Dude got involved in a Linkin Park tribute show and auditioned to rap for two of the songs – “Bleed it Out” and “Faint”. Not only that, but he started the show!! So I, as a supportive wife, had to go to the show in Tel Aviv on Thursday night (seriously putting a dent in my Thursday night prep time). It was great to hear Rocker Dude sing, and I am also a huge fan of Linkin Park in general and they played all of their older music so it was an enjoyable show all around. Go Rocker Dude!

The Little Rocker adds whipped cream.
The Little Rocker adds whipped cream.

Back to our baking dilemma, on Thursday afternoon I went to a baking supply store to get vanilla extract (they have the quality stuff) and some high quality chocolate. (And I wanted to buy out the whole store.) I then stopped at the supermarket for a few more things, like figs. And that messed up the amorphous thoughts of dessert floating through my mind. Chocolate or figs?

In order to make help make my decision, I narrowed down the options. Rocker Dude has rules about when he helps me make decisions. First, I have to narrow down the options to the two or three options that I think are best. Then he will decide between what is left. So I gave him the options of Chocolate Silk Pie and Fig, Honey-Almond Tart. As he is a man of simple tastes (and figs are not one of them), you can imagine what he chose – the Chocolate Silk Pie. But he said that it shouldn’t be too chocolatey. Oy.

After licking the spatula.
After licking the spatula.

This pie is a rich, creamy dessert that really showcases the chocolate. With a chocolate cookie crust, a truffle filling and a whipped cream topping, it is decadence personified. Can a dessert be personified? Hmm.

This is  a multi-step dessert, involving pasteurizing eggs (no no one gets food poisoning or anything) and then chilling the chocolate filled pie and topping with whipped cream. This dessert is really rich and delicious and even for me – one piece is enough, but so worth it.

Chocolate Silk Pie
Chocolate Silk Pie

It is also a great summer dessert as the pie is nice and cool. Hopefully next week we will have the Fig Honey-Almond Tart. Rocker Dude will have to suffer with it then :).

Also, a sponsored announcement right now. On August 22nd, Rocker Dude is producing an amazing tribute rock concert: Rock4Rookies Live!!! He is celebrating 5 years of his podcast with a concert by some of Israel’s best rockers. So anyone who will be in Israel then should come to the show!! The link to the Facebook event is here. Now you all know why we call him Rocker Dude! And check out his show here.

Recipe (From The Art and Soul of Baking):

Crust:
7 oz. chocolate sandwich cookies
3/4 stick butter/margarine, melted

Filling:
3 large eggs
6 Tbsp. sugar
3/4 stick butter/margarine
10 oz. good quality bittersweet or a mix of bittersweet and semisweet chocolate (up to 70% cacao)
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Topping:
1 cup heavy cream
3 tbsp. confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grind up the cookies in a food processor until you have fine crumbs.  Set aside about 1/4 of crumbs to top the pie. Mix the crumbs with the butter or margarine. Press the crumbs into the bottom of a pie plate and up the sides as well. Place the crust in the oven and bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool completely.

In a heat proof bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together. In a saucepan, heat two inches of water. Reduce to simmer and place the bowl over the pot. Keep whisking the egg mixture together as you slowly heat it. Using an instant read thermometer, heat the egg mixture until it reaches 160 degrees F. Remove from heat and pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer. If some of your eggs scrambled, pour the mixture through a sieve into the mixing bowl so that you don’t get egg clumps. Beat the eggs on high speed for three minutes.

While the eggs are beating, add the chocolate, cream and margarine to the bowl over the pot of boiling water. Let sit for a minute and then gently mix until the chocolate is completely melted. Remove from heat and slowly pour the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture while the mixer is still going at medium speed. Mix until there is no longer a trace of the eggs. Beat in the vanilla extract.

Pour the chocolate into the cooled crust and refrigerate for at least an hour.

To make the topping, beat the cream and confectioner’s sugar in a mixing bowl until you have soft peaks. You can pipe the cream decoratively over the chocolate or use a spatula. Sprinkle reserved cookie crumbs over the cream.

The pie will keep in the fridge for three days, though the cream might start to break down after the first day.

Lemon Cream Tart

I have been dreaming about lemons for a few weeks now.  Lemon Meringue Pie, Lemon Squares, pretty much anything lemon.  The only problem is that lemon is not one of Rocker Dude’s favorite flavors and he tends to shy away from lemon desserts.

This week I didn’t care.  If lemon is so much on my mind it must be a sign from heaven that I am supposed to be baking with lemon.  I decided to make the lemon cream tart from Dorie Greenspan’s book Baking: From my Home to Yours.  I have made it before when I first started blogging and for some reason it never made it onto the site.  This time I meticulously photographed so that I could write a proper post.

Before you ask, lemon cream is different from lemon curd.  Both have a strong tart flavor, but lemon cream is silkier than lemon curd and the flavor is slightly more mellow (very slightly).  Dorie says that she learned this recipe from pastry god Pierre Hermé.  And anything that comes from him must be good.

The process of making lemon cream is very similar to that of lemon curd, but instead of just waiting for the mixture to thicken, you have to get it to 180 degrees F and then when it cools to 140 degrees F, mix it in a blender while slowly adding butter or margarine, emulsifying the mixture to silky creaminess.

 

Silky creamy lemoniness.

The first time I made this, I don’t think that I got the mixture to the right temperature, as the thermometer that I was using was not a candy thermometer and did not quite reach 180 degrees F.  Also, the Little Rocker had been fascinated by it and dropped it on the floor quite a few times before I put a lock on the drawer.

 

So I used my new thermometer, that also has a clip to attach it to the side of the pot so I didn’t have to stop mixing to check the temperature, and we did this “scientifically” (in the words of my mother, the pharmaceutical chemist).

The crust is the regular tart crust that I posted here.  I made it the night before so that it would be fully cooled when I put the filling inside.

 

Fresh lemon juice

 

Then in the morning, I got the lemons ready, grating the zest and juicing the lemons.

 

Sugar rubbed with lemon zest

 

Then I mixed everything up in my version of a double boiler (a pot on top of another pot) and stirred and stirred and stirred and stirred (you can see where this is going) until finally the mixture hit 180 degrees F.

 

Doesn't it look like some complicated science experiment?

Then I poured the whole mixture  into the food processor to cool off, and when it cooled to 140 degrees F, I started mixing the cream with the metal blade and added chunks of margarine to be mixed in.  I followed the instructions to the letter, and the cream came out beautifully.  It was so good. I put the cream into a container to cool in the refrigerator and then proceeded to lick the bowl of the food processor and the spatula.  I had to physically stop myself from stealing spoonfuls of cream from the bowl in the refrigerator.

 

When the cream had cooled, I spread it in the crust and chilled it some more.  FYI, and this is something I learned the hard way, you can’t transport this in the stroller once it has been assembled.  The cream doesn’t set firm, so if the pan is not straight…

We had a number of guests on Friday night and J. and M. were coming for dessert after dinner.  I knew that J. would appreciate what I was making, he fancies himself an appreciator of good food (aren’t we all though?).

 

Lemon Cream Tart

 

When it came time for dessert, by the time I had finished passing out the tart, J. had already finished his.  If that’s not appreciation I don’t know what is.  And surprise surprise, Rocker Dude loved the tart.  He said that it was because this time, the crust was really good, but I know better.  I think his taste buds are finally getting used to new flavors (I hope!).

 

The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart (from Baking: From My Home to Yours):

1 cup sugar

Grated zest of 3 lemons

4 large eggs

¾ cup fresh lemon juice (from 4-5 lemons)

2 sticks plus 5 tbsp. (10 1/2 oz.) unsalted butter or margarine

1 9 inch tart shell, fully baked (see the recipe here)

Have an instant read thermometer ready.

Bring a few inches of water to a boil in a saucepan.  Place a heatproof bowl over the pot (or another pot) and make sure that the bowl does not touch the surface of the water.

Rub the sugar and zest together until the sugar is moist and very aromatic.  Whisk in the eggs followed by the lemon juice.

Place all the ingredients into the bowl over the pot and start stirring with a whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid.  Cook the lemon cream until it reaches 180 degrees F.  You must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling.  As you whisk, the mixture will get thicker and the whisk will start to leave tracks – this means that you are getting close.  Don’t stop whisking and checking the temperature.  Have patience.

As soon as the cream reaches 180 degrees F, remove the bowl from the heat and pour the cream through a strainer into a blender or food processor.  Let it cool to 140 degrees F.

Turn the food processor on high, and with the machine going, add the butter or margarine a few tablespoons at a time.  Once the butter is incorporated, keep the machine going for another 3 minutes, you want the mixture to be light and airy.

Pour the cream into a container and cover with a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the cream to prevent a skin from forming.  Chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.

When you are ready to assemble the tart, just whisk the cream a little to loosen it and spread it into the tart shell.  Serve immediately or chill until needed.

Daring Bakers make Swiss Swirl Ice Cream Cakes

The July 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Sunita of Sunita’s world – life and food. Sunita challenged everyone to make an ice-cream filled Swiss roll that’s then used to make a bombe with hot fudge. Her recipe is based on an ice cream cake recipe from Taste of Home.

I was really excited about making this recipe.  It is July in Israel and perfect ice cream weather.  Hot and sunny and humid everyday.  I also recently learned how to make ice cream myself so I love opportunities to make more ice cream.  When I saw the challenge I had in mind to make it earlier on in the month because we are flying today to America and I didn’t want it lying around the house while we are gone.  Of course it came to the 15th and I realized that I completely forgot to make the cake – ahhhh!

I knew that this recipe would be a bit time-consuming and if I tried to make it bit by bit at nights, then I would need a few days to put it together.  Then I had an idea.  On August 20th, we had a fast day (Tisha B’Av – mourning the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem – about 3,500 years ago).  I was taking off from work because the Little Rocker’s daycare was closed as well.  Here, I would have an entire day that I could devote to making this recipe.  Granted I would be fasting so I couldn’t try any of it, but I find that I fast better when I am busy and can’t think about eating.  I also had to make a quiche for the Little Rocker’s graduation party at the end of the week, as well as food to break the fast on and a blintz souffle for my friend S. (or E., depending what you call her)’s bridal shower the next day.  Rocker Dude was not happy.   He fasts best in bed, asleep or watching TV and not thinking or smelling food.  Oh well.  Poor him.

I decided that I should make the ice creams first and then make the cake itself.  The ice creams were different from what I was used to, no custard, and the vanilla ice cream I didn’t even heat at all.  The chocolate ice cream used cornstarch as a thickener.  I wasn’t sure how that was going to turn out, but it turned out okay.  When Rocker Dude asked what kind of ice creams I would be making I said, “Vanilla and chocolate.”  His response, “Oh, so finally you will be making something normal and plain and not burnt monkey ice cream with weird whatever swirl.”  You can see how he likes my experimentation.

Creams waiting to be flavored and frozen.

Because the vanilla ice cream did not have to be heated, it froze relatively quickly.  Not so the chocolate which was heated.  The cakes came out perfectly the first time and rolled nicely with no cracking – Yay!!!  Of course the Little Rocker was awfully curious about what I was doing and while the two cakes were rolled in the towels to cool, she decided that she had to see what was inside and she started to unroll the cakes.  I sort of freaked out, not proud about it, but what can you do?  I told her that she couldn’t touch the cakes, they were mine.  So her compromise was she would pat them softly and say, “Nice, nice” and then when I wasn’t looking she would try to open them again.  Curiosity is a challenge.  Actually this is her solution to everything these days.  Every time I tell her not to touch something she just pats is softly and says, “Nice, nice”.  Okay baby, the point is that you don’t touch (keep in mind she does this when I am drinking coffee, except then she adds, “Hot, nice nice.”  Oy!

The Little Rocker, "Gimme gimme gimme!"
Cake, filled and rolled almost all the way

I wanted to be able to serve this for dessert after breaking the fast.  I realize that this was rather ambitious considering that in the end I only had about two hours to get the whole thing set up.  Either way, I sliced up the cake rolls and lined the bowl, then I put in the vanilla ice cream which had softened up just a bit, and put the whole thing back in the freezer.

Sliced cake rolls.

I forgot to make the fudge sauce so when I did remember to make it, it didn’t have a chance to cool completely before putting it on the vanilla (okay, I get it, I should have been more patient and then it would have cooled, but in my defense, I was hungry!)  The fudge sauce kind of mixed in with the vanilla – not too much, but a bit, but it also leaked between the cake rolls, so my cake was not as beautiful as it could have been.  I froze that and added the chocolate layer as well.

The finished product - you can see that the fudge leaked through, oh well, yum!

As you can imagine, it was not really ready to be eaten that night.  So I decided to take it to my friend’s shower.  There would be plenty of girls there who would appreciate it.

The inside of the frozen cake!

I brought it over and when I took it out, there were many ooohhhs and ahhhhs.  And then I got comments like, “Only give me half a piece, I need to fit into my wedding dress.”  or “That things just looks too darn good to be low-calorie.”  And yet, everyone who took half a piece, took another.  And soon there was not much left!  Success.

Congratulations S.! (The shower was Audrey Hepburn themed - she's a total fan)

Oh yeah, and the best part – I didn’t take it back home so I didn’t eat the leftovers – so I could fit into the dress I have to wear at my brother’s wedding next week!!

What was left.

Remember when Rocker Dude said that he was excited that I was finally making normal ice cream flavors – he never actually got to taste it – he won’t let me live that down.

P.S. I showed my Swiss friend M. the cake and she says that they just call the cakes roulades in Switzerland – not Swiss rolls.  I guess that makes sense, I mean do the French call them French fries?

Recipe:

The Swiss rolls-

Ingredients-

6 medium sized eggs

1 C / 225 gms caster sugar /8 oz+ extra for rolling

6 tblsp / 45gms/ a pinch over 1.5 oz of all purpose (plain) flour + 5 tblsp/40gm /a pinch under 1.5 oz of natural unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted together

2 tblsp /30ml / 1 fl oz of boiling water

a little oil for brushing the pans

For the filling-

2C / 500 mls/ 16 fl oz of whipping cream

1 vanilla pod, cut into small pieces of about ½ cm (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)

5 tblsp / 70gms/2.5oz of caster sugar

Method-

  1. Pre heat the oven at 200 deg C /400 deg F approximately. Brush the baking pans ( 11 inches by 9 inches ) with a little oil and line with greaseproof baking paper. If you have just one pan, bake one cake and then let the pan cool completely before using it for the next cake.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, add the eggs and sugar and beat till very thick; when the beaters are lifted, it should leave a trail on the surface for at least 10 seconds.
  3. Add the flour mixture, in three batches and fold in gently with a spatula. Fold in the water.
  4. Divide the mixture among the two baking pans and spread it out evenly, into the corners of the pans.
  5. Place a pan in the centre of the pre heated oven and bake for about 10-12 minutes or till the centre is springy to the touch.
  6. Spread a kitchen towel on the counter and sprinkle a little caster sugar over it.
  7. Turn the cake on to the towel and peel away the baking paper. Trim any crisp edges.
  8. Starting from one of the shorter sides, start to make a roll with the towel going inside. Cool the wrapped roll on a rack, seam side down.
  9. Repeat the same for the next cake as well.
  10. Grind together the vanilla pieces and sugar in a food processer till nicely mixed together. If you are using vanilla extract, just grind the sugar on its own and then add the sugar and extract to the cream.

Filling:

  1. In a large bowl, add the cream and vanilla-sugar mixture and beat till very thick.
  2. Divide the cream mixture between the completely cooled cakes.
  3. Open the rolls and spread the cream mixture, making sure it does not go right to the edges (a border of ½ an inch should be fine).
  4. Roll the cakes up again, this time without the towel. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge till needed, seam side down.

The vanilla ice cream-

Ingredients-

2 and ½ C / 625 ml / 20 fl oz of whipping cream

1 vanilla bean, minced or 1 tsp/ 5 ml/ .15 fl oz vanilla extract

½ C / 115gms/ 4 oz of granulated sugar

Method-

Grind together the sugar and vanilla in a food processor. In a mixing bowl, add the cream and vanilla –sugar mixture and whisk lightly till everything is mixed together. If you are using the vanilla extract, grind the sugar on its own and then and the sugar along with the vanilla extract to the cream.

Pour into a freezer friendly container and freeze till firm around the edges. Remove from the freezer, beat till smooth and return to the freezer. Do this 3-4 times and then set completely.

The Hot fudge sauce-

Ingredients-

1 C / 230gms/ 8 oz of caster sugar

3 tblsp / 24gms/1.5 oz of natural unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tblsp /15gms/ 1 oz of cornflour/cornstarch

1 and ½ C /355ml /12 fl oz of water

1 tblsp /14gms/ 1 oz butter

1 tsp/5 ml / .15 fl oz vanilla extract

Method-

  1. In a small saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, cornflour and water.
  2. Place the pan over heat, and stir constantly, till it begins to thicken and is smooth (for about 2 minutes).
  3. Remove from heat and mix in the butter and vanilla. Keep aside to cool .

The chocolate ice cream-

Ingredients-

2C/ 500 ml whipping cream

1 C/230gms/8 oz caster sugar

3 tblsp/ 24 gms/1.5 oz of natural unsweetened cocoa powder

Method-

  1. Grind together the sugar and the cocoa powder in a food processor .
  2. In a saucepan, add all the ingredients and whisk lightly.
  3. Place the pan over heat and keep stirring till it begins to bubble around the edges.
  1. Remove from heat and cool completely before transferring to a freezer friendly container till firm around the edges. If you are using an ice cream maker, churn the ice cream according to the manufacturer’s instruction, after the mixture has cooled completely.
  2. 5. Remove from the freezer, beat till smooth and return to the freezer. Do this 3-4 times and then set completely.

Assembly-

1. Cut the Swiss rolls into 20 equal slices ( approximately 2 cms each ).

2. Cover the bottom and sides of the bowl in which you are going to set the dessert with cling film/plastic wrap.

3. Arrange two slices at the bottom of the pan, with their seam sides facing each other. Arrange the Swiss roll slices up the bowl, with the seam sides facing away from the bottom, to cover the sides of the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and freeze till the slices are firm (at least 30 minutes).

4. Soften the vanilla ice cream. Take the bowl out of the freezer, remove the cling film cover and add the ice cream on top of the cake slices. Spread it out to cover the bottom and sides of the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and freeze till firm ( at least 1 hour)

5. Add the fudge sauce over the vanilla ice cream, cover and freeze till firm . ( at least an hour)

6. Soften the chocolate ice cream and spread it over the fudge sauce. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 4-5 hours till completely set .

7. Remove the plastic cover, and place the serving plate on top of the bowl. Turn it upside down and remove the bowl and the plastic lining. If the bowl does not come away easily, wipe the outsides of the bowl with a kitchen towel dampened with hot water. The bowl will come away easily.

Daring Bakers: Piece Montee – Croquembouche

I know it has been a while.  After Shavuoth, work really picked up – think 10-11 hour days of total chaos.  But thank God, the season for the Q1 2010 results reporting is over and we can look forward to a little quiet, and best of all, I can get back to baking!  The end of the month also means Daring Bakers challenges.  This month’s challenge was a croquembouche (literally a crunch in the mouth).  It is basically a stack of pastry cream filled eclairs dipped in chocolate or caramel to hold it together.  I have always wanted to make eclairs and this was the perfect time to do it.

I decided to make the croquembouche for Shavuoth when we would be having 10 people anyway.  Also, J., an avid Top Chef watcher,  was coming and he appreciates what I do.

On Shavuot there is a widespread custom to eat only dairy foods (for many reasons, but one is because they taste so good – there should be at least one holiday when we eat dairy instead of meat!).  So as this was probably my one and only chance for the whole year to make fancy dairy desserts, the croquembouche was not the centerpiece it should have been, but it was delicious anyway.

Melting the butter with the water.

I made the eclairs over the span of a few days.  First making the eclair shells, and the pastry cream.  And then the next day putting everything together.  I’m pretty sure that it was too warm to make this, as my pate a choux kind of spread when I piped it onto the pan.

Eclairs ready for baking.

Either way, they puffed up and got crispy.  I put them in a Ziploc bag overnight because the recipe said that you could store them in an airtight container until you were ready to use them.  This made them soft and I had to recrisp them afterward.

Pastry Cream Filling

I wasn’t sure how to stack the eclairs to make the croquembouche.  Some recommended to use toothpicks to hold the eclairs together.  I didn’t want the toothpicks to show when people started taking off each eclair, so I decided to just let the chocolate that I was using to coat the tops of the eclairs to harden a bit before putting on the next layer.  This way the eclairs would stick to each other.  This worked perfectly and made for great presentation.

The final product - the Piece Montee

I decided to use melted chocolate instead of caramel to dip the eclairs because it would be easier to clean off the pot (sometimes these are important considerations.)

Everyone loved them and they went wonderfully with the mint ice cream that I made – yum!

Recipe:

For the Vanilla Crème Patissiere (Half Batch)
1 cup (225 ml.) whole milk
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
6 Tbsp. (100 g.) sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp. (30 g.) unsalted butter
1 Tsp. Vanilla

Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat.

Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornstarch mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook.

Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.

Continue whisking (this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla.

Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use.

Pate a Choux (Yield: About 28)
¾ cup (175 ml.) water
6 Tbsp. (85 g.) unsalted butter
¼ Tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup (125 g.) all-purpose flour
4 large eggs

For Egg Wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt

Pre-heat oven to 425◦F/220◦C degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Preparing batter:
Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely.

Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.

Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny.

As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes.

It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.

Piping:
Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip (I piped directly from the bag opening without a tip). Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide.

Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top.

Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with pinch of salt).

Baking:
Bake the choux at 425◦F/220◦C degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes.

Lower the temperature to 350◦F/180◦C degrees and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool.

Can be stored in an airtight box overnight.

Filling:
When you are ready to assemble your piece montée, using a plain pastry tip, pierce the bottom of each choux. Fill the choux with pastry cream using either the same tip or a star tip, and place on a paper-lined sheet. Choux can be refrigerated briefly at this point while you make your glaze.

Use one of these to top your choux and assemble your piece montée.

Chocolate Glaze:
8 ounces/200 g. finely chopped chocolate (use the finest quality you can afford as the taste will be quite pronounced; I recommend semi-sweet)

Melt chocolate in microwave or double boiler. Stir at regular intervals to avoid burning. Use the best quality chocolate you can afford. Use immediately.

Hard Caramel Glaze:
1 cup (225 g.) sugar
½ teaspoon lemon juice

Combine sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan with a metal kitchen spoon stirring until the sugar resembles wet sand. Place on medium heat; heat without stirring until sugar starts to melt around the sides of the pan and the center begins to smoke. Begin to stir sugar. Continue heating, stirring occasionally until the sugar is a clear, amber color. Remove from heat immediately; place bottom of pan in ice water to stop the cooking. Use immediately.

Assembly of your Piece Montée:
You may want to lay out your unfilled, unglazed choux in a practice design to get a feel for how to assemble the final dessert. For example, if making a conical shape, trace a circle (no bigger than 8 inches) on a piece of parchment to use as a pattern. Then take some of the larger choux and assemble them in the circle for the bottom layer. Practice seeing which pieces fit together best.

Once you are ready to assemble your piece montée, dip the top of each choux in your glaze (careful it may be still hot!), and start assembling on your cake board/plate/sheet. Continue dipping and adding choux in levels using the glaze to hold them together as you build up. (You may want to use toothpicks to hold them in place).

When you have finished the design of your piece montée, you may drizzle with remaining glaze or use ribbons, sugar cookie cut-outs, almonds, flowers, etc. to decorate. Have fun and enjoy! Bon appétit!

Banana Cream Pie with Chocolate and Cinnamon

This was a fun recipe to make.  I was flipping through my Sur La Table cookbook, The Art and Soul of Baking, looking for a fruit based recipe that I could make with a seasonal fruit that wasn’t strawberries.  I found this Pie and I knew I had a winner.  We had a few bananas that I had bought a few days before so they were perfectly ripe, and it looked like something that we would enjoy on a warm day.  I told Rocker Dude what I wanted to make, and his reply was , “It’s a good thing that we will be having guests over.” Hmmph!

The greatest part of this recipe is that it can all be made in advance and assembled later.  It really saved me a lot of time.  The Little Rocker wasn’t feeling well, so this gave me time to take care of her and make something cool.

It happens to everyone.

This recipe started with a broken egg.  I took out eggs to get to room temperature before I started baking, and of course, one got loose and ended up on the floor.  Little Rocker looked on in delight.  Of course she was happy, I had asked Rocker Dude to buy non-dairy oreos (a knockoff brand) and of course they both dipped into the stash.  Cookies and messes!  Wow!!

The crust for this pie was the easiest thing in the world to make.  I ground up the cookies in the food processor and poured the melted margarine on top and pressed into the pie dish.  Because they dipped into my cookie supply, though, I was short come cookies, so I could only cover the bottom of the pie dish.   Don’t worry, I made sure that Rocker Dude heard about it.

When the crust was cool, I made the ganache and spread it over the crust.  The ganache keeps the crust from absorbing too much moisture from the cream and keeps it crispy.

Ganache on a Crust

That went into the fridge while I made the pastry cream.  Cinnamon pastry cream?  Oh yum!  Pastry cream is really simple to make, though I did come across a general type for all pastry cream making.  When you mix the egg yolks with the sugar, make sure to do it only right before you are going to use it.  If you let it sit too long, then the sugar breaks up the egg and apparently you can’t salvage it.

Pastry Cream before it Thickens
Cinnamon Pastry Cream

Once the cream cooled (I had it in the fridge for a few hours), I sliced up the bananas thinly and mixed them into the cream.  If you mix the bananas in right away, then they won’t turn brown because all the surface area is covered.

Banana Pastry Cream

Put that pie right back in the refrigerator and whip the topping up.  As soon as it holds its peaks, spread it over the surface of the pie.  If you want, you can put it in a pastry bag with a star tip and decorate the pie.  I didn’t have the energy to put into making a fancy topping, so I just made a smooth layer of cream.

Finished Pie

You are then supposed to refrigerate the pie for another 30 minutes before serving.   Mine was in for about 3 hours – tasted great.  Look at that yumminess:

Yumminess

When Rocker Dude tasted it (and he only had a small bite at first), he said  that it reminded him of a treat he had eaten in France many years ago.  It’s basically a banana shaped cookie, half a banana and chocolate on top.  Finally!  Something banana-ey that he likes!  And he thought he wouldn’t like it – so there!!

Recipe:

Crust:

1 1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs

3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted

Cinnamon Pastry Cream:

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 large egg

2 large egg yolks

6 tbsp. sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 tbsp. cold unsalted butter

1 1/2 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate

1 tbsp. plus 1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream

3 large ripe bananas (not overripe)

1 tbsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Mix the melted butter with the cookie crumbs until the crumbs are all moistened.  Press the crumbs into a 9 inch pie pan.  Press the cookies as far up the side as they go.  Bake for 8-10 minutes and transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Pour the milk into a medium saucepan. Heat until the milk begins to simmer.  Remove from heat.  In a medium bowl, whisk the egg, egg yolks and sugar until well-blended and smooth. Add the flour and whisk vigorously.  Pour about 1/2 cup of the hot milk into the eggs, whisking constantly to temper the eggs.  Slowly pour the yolk mixture into the rest of the milk, constantly whisking.  Heat the mixture, whisking constantly to prevent the flour from lumping until it reaches a boil.  Continue to cook and whisk for another minute until the pastry cream is very thick.  Remove from heat and whisk in the butter and the cinnamon.  Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the cream to prevent it from forming a skin and refrigerate until completely cool.

Place the chocolate and 1 tbsp. of cream into the microwave and heat on high for one minute.  Stir to blend.  If there are any lumps, heat for another 15 seconds and stir again.  Pour the chocolate onto the cooled pie shell and smooth a thin, even layer over the bottom of the crust.  Chill for 10 minutes to set the ganache.

Cut the bananas into 1/4 inch thick slices and gently stir them into the chilled pastry cream.  Scrape the filling into the prepared pie crust and spread evenly to the edge.  Chill while you make the topping.

Whip the 1 1/4 cups cream, sugar and vanilla together until soft peaks form.  Spread the topping onto the banana cream evenly.  Or you can use a pastry bag with a star tip to decoratively pipe the topping, but keep in mind that you might need about 1/2 cup more cream.

Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.