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.

The Saga of the Babka

The first time I ever made babka, I was in summer camp in the Catskills and we had a baking activity (because nice religious girls have to know how to bake for their husbands of course) and we learned how to make challah, chocolate cake and other traditional delicacies. One of the other things we learned was babka. Babka is a traditional Jewish yeast cake that is often served on Shabbat morning.

I used to make the babka recipe that I got from camp for a while, but it was a huge “patchke” (effort).  The recipe also called for over a whole pound of butter/margarine which is a bit much for me, and you had to let the dough rise for six or seven hours total which basically takes up a whole day.  Also, the recipe is on a paper inside the cover of one of my mom’s cookbooks, and not in Israel with me. I more or less forgot about it and that was that for many years. (That wasn’t much of a saga, was it? I guess in my mind, I added on all the years in between into the story.)

Chopped Walnuts
Chopped Walnuts

Last week was Shavuot and though the entire holiday is so dairy-centric, i was asked to make a non-dairy dessert for dinner.  I had no idea what to make.  Not even the slightest idea. So I pulled out one of my first cookbooks, The Perfect Cake, that was given to me by a classmate in high school. In high school I had a thing where I made a cake for everyone in my grade’s birthday.  We are not talking about fancy cakes here, but basic yellow cakes, maybe with chocolate chips or something. In twelfth grade, one of my classmates gave the book to me as a present but it has not gotten as much use as it should have.

Adding the dates.
Adding the dates.

So during my dessert decision making I pulled out this cookbook so that it wouldn’t feel lonely.  I was in the mood for a yeasted cake for some reason, and I had a package of yeast that needed to be used up before it expired. The Perfect Cake is basically a cookbook that provides basic recipes for various kinds of cakes – yeast, sponge, genoise, cheesecake, etc. and then a whole bunch of variations and flavorings. The recipe for the basic yeasted cake also came with a richer variation besides all the optional fillings. I went for the richer variation because I was worried that the dough might be dry, and as the cake was not going to be served with coffee, I wanted it on the moister side. What I most did not want was a recipe that would require more than two hours of total rising time because we had to leave to our friends’ by noon.  (We ended up being a bit late anyway as Rocker Dude had to paint the Little Rocker’s nails – fingers and toes! She wanted alternating pink and purple on her fingers and alternating green and blue on her toes.  It looked great!)

Cutting the roll to expose the filling.
Cutting the roll to expose the filling.

The dough was easy to mix up and did not have a whole pound of margarine, it rose really nicely and was easy to roll out.  The filling was another decision.  I like cinnamon babka best.  This hearkens back to the days when I did not like chocolate at all (what?!?!?) and I would not eat chocolate cakes or anything.  The only exception was Hershey’s and Reese’s.  Since then my tastes have matured somewhat and my father can again claim me as his daughter (He is a chocolate person.  One of his favorite ice creams is Death by Chocolate.) But for the babka I decided to go cinnamon anyway. I filled it the way I normally fill cinnamon buns, and rolled up the dough.  In retrospect, I should have used more filling because it was kind of lost in the dough.

One roll all done!
One loaf all done!

Instead of following the shaping instructions in the book, though, I followed the instructions on the back of the yeast package. I know, I am such a rebel. Basically, instead of just twisting two rolls together, I made one roll, and then cut it in half down the middle.  This gave me two half rolls of many layers.  Then I twisted these together and put them in the pan. I think it helps the filling get out and makes the cake a bit more appealing.

Two loaves ready to go.
Two loaves ready to go.

After this cake working out, but the filling not making me happy, I made the dough again and tried different fillings.  I made a date nut filling for the Little Rocker’s friend’s birthday party, a brown sugar and cinnamon that is now in the freezer, and a chocolate (yes Abba, a chocolate) that has since been completely finished. I used a lot of margarine before putting on the fillings and that definitely helped make the cakes a bit gooey-er. Rocker Dude did not want to even try the date-nut babka as it had nuts, and he does not get nuts in food. He is just unclear why they have to be there in the first place. I loved it.  We had organic barhi dates that I had ordered a few weeks ago from our csa and they were super-sweet. That version was a success.  A bit messy, but a success.

All done
All done

I made the brown sugar one and I enjoyed that one a lot, so did Rocker Dude. A basic sweet dough with a sweet filling. The chocolate was an afterthought as after the two loaves I still had some extra dough.  I didn’t want to just take chocolate spread and use that as a filling because I thought it was kind of a cop-out, so I mixed cocoa and sugar (you know, so it would be sweet), and sprinkled that over the melted margarine. Rocker Dude asked to use for filling.  He said that there should be so much filling that he has to lick it off his fingers. He has a point.

Three kinds of babka - top right - brown sugar, bottom - chocolate, and top left- date-nut.
Three kinds of babka – top right – brown sugar, bottom – chocolate, and top left- date-nut.

While this is not a quick recipe, it is simple and just requires some rising time.

P.S. I just finished watching the first season of Nashville, and who knew that Hayden Panettiere could sing?? Also the two main characters keep doing the stupidest things – so frustrating!! Can’t wait for the next season :).

Recipe:

Dough:
1/2 cup warm water
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 oz. active dry yeast, or 25 grams fresh yeast
1/3 cup honey
1 tsp. salt
1 cup yogurt or soymilk with a little vinegar
2 eggs
1 tsp. grated lemon or orange zest
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 butter or margarine, melted and cooled to room temp.
4 to 6 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted

Egg Wash:
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. water

In a large mixing bowl, combine the water, sugar and yeast. Let sit for five minutes until the mixture looks bubbly (if you are using fresh yeast, then you don’t have to wait). Add the other ingredients except for the flour. Whisk until blended.  Add in the flour, one cup at a time until the dough forms a soft ball. Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand for a few minutes adding flour as needed to prevent sticking. When the dough feels smooth, place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours.

The dough can be refrigerated at this point overnight. Bring to room temperature before continuing with the recipe.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. When the dough is finished rising, divide into three parts. Roll the first piece of dough out to 1/4 inch thickness.  Using a pastry brush, generously brush the dough with some melted butter. Sprinkle on the desired filling (recipes below). Roll up the dough lengthwise into a tight roll. Slice the roll down the middle with a sharp knife. Twist the two halves together, with the cut sides facing out. Place in a 9×5 inch loaf pan or in a 9×13 inch pan (with room for another one). Brush with egg wash.

Let rise again for forty minutes or so, until not quite doubled in bulk. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cake sounds hollow when you tap on it. Cool on a wire rack.

Fillings:

Chocolate Filling:1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 cup sugar

Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Filling:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp. cinnamon

Date-Nut Filling:1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped
8 dates (I used barhi dates), pitted and finely chopped

Brownie-Swirl Cheesecake

Hello again to all my friends, I’m glad you came to play. Our fun and learning never ends, here’s what we did today! (Bonus points to anyone who remembers that show from childhood.)

Well we are back with another cheesecake recipe.  Here is something for you chocolate lovers – brownie and cheesecake – together! Doesn’t get much better than that.  In this version, we have a brownie layer and a cheesecake layer which are then swirled together – somewhat – and then chocolate chips are sprinkled on top.  My version did not get so swirled as the brownie layer was much denser than the cheesecake layer (possibly because I used white cheese instead of cream cheese – but those are my limitations here). So it ended up more as a fudgy-brownie layer (the best kind) and a cheesecake layer.

Brownie Swirl Cheesecake
Brownie Swirl Cheesecake

I have to say that it was really easy to make.  Only required one bowl (which I washed in the middle) and in the oven it went. I actually doubled the cheesecake part of it because I was making the cake in a 9×13 pan instead of an 8×8 as the recipe calls for. The recipe below is the original.

I was actually up to one am last night as one of my customers decided to have a conference call event at midnight Israel time, just to be sadistic, and I had to stay up for it.  So if I was going to need to stay up anyway, might as well accomplish something.  So I made this cheesecake to take to our friends at whom we will be staying for Shavuot, and a blueberry cheesecake for Rocker Dude, because it is his favorite.

Chocolate chips!
Chocolate chips!

Shavuot is kind of a crazy holiday because it is only one day long (or two outside of Israel) and there is so much preparation for it because everything has to be dairy.  Most people I know cook primarily meat for holidays, so everyone tries to get in all the fancy dairy food that they have always wanted to make and it sometimes makes for some really heavy meals. I planned on practicing restraint this year, but now we are going away for the holiday, so I don’t have to do anything but provide dessert.

Have a bite.
Have a bite.

Shavuot is when we celebrate receiving the Bible. As a result, one of the customs on Shavuot is to learn Torah all night.  Usually it’s the men who do it, but some women like to join in as well.  Once you have kids it is harder because those kids will be up at 6:30 in the morning, so you better be functional at that time of day. Going to bed at 4 am – not so conducive.  So Rocker Dude plans on being up all night, and he needs good food to keep him going – so, cheesecake!!!

All done!
All done!

Squeaker is squeaking, so I have to run.  Here is the recipe.

Recipe (from Smitten Kitchen):

Brownie batter
1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup all-purpose flour

Cheesecake batter
8 ounces cream cheese, well softened (or equivalent amount of white cheese – gevina levana)
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 325°F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Heat butter and chocolate in a heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, whisking occasionally, just until melted. Remove from heat and whisk in sugar, eggs, vanilla, and a pinch of salt until well combined. Whisk in flour until just combined and spread in baking pan.

Whisk together cheesecake batter ingredients in a small bowl until smooth. Dollop over brownie batter, then swirl in with a knife or spatula.

(You can use a butter knife because the tip of it is round enough that you can use it to fold bits of the brownie batter over the cheesecake batter for a more visibly marbled effect.)

Sprinkle chocolate chips over cheesecake/brownie batter swirl.

Bake until edges are slightly puffed and center is just set, about 35 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The Best Checkerboard Cookies Ever!

The Little Rocker’s Birthday was this week and as a devoted mother I thought it my duty to make her a little party with the requisite birthday cake, etc.  She actually had a party in preschool for which I brought a cake and goody bags, but we also decided to make a small thing at home for my friends (duh!).  For this party, we decided to make cupcakes and checkerboard cookies.

The inspiration for the cookies came to me on Shabbat when I was browsing through the CIA cookbook Baking and Pastry with the Little Rocker.  I saw the recipe for the checkerboard cookies and suddenly, the spirit moved me (a phrase my parents used to use when I wanted to bake).  As the Little Rocker’s birthday party was coming up, it seemed an ideal opportunity to use the recipe.

Checkerboard Cookies

Let me tell you straight from the start – this recipe is a potchke- (Yiddish for a pain in the tuchus [Yiddish for behind]). Do not start it at 9 pm and expect to go to bed early! (I know this from personal experience.)  But after tasting these cookies when they were done (at 12:30 at night) it was so worth it.  This is basically a chocolate and vanilla sable cookie that melts in your mouth and could only be improved if I had used real butter instead of margarine.

The first thing I had to do was reduce the amounts in the recipe.  This cookbook is really made for the professional pastry chef and the amounts correspond to that need.  I don’t need 10 dozen cookies.  All my hard work would go down the drain if all those cookies were lying around the house.  I decided to cut the recipe in half to make life easier.  Another fun difference in the cookbook is that all the amounts are listed in weights and not cups to make the measurements more precise (how many egg yolk is 227 grams?).  So I decided that if the recipe would be professional then I would be professional and organize everything ahead of time – get my mise en place together before starting.

Here are the ingredients for the vanilla cookie dough:

Here are the ingredients for the chocolate cookie dough:

My mise was placed.

Notice that there is no leavening agent in either dough – no baking powder or baking soda – these cookies do not rise and that helps them stay together during baking.

Then you have to chill the dough until it is firm enough to roll out and not be sticky.  I froze the divided dough to save time and went to shower and put the Little Rocker to bed – all hail multi-tasking!

Two dough squares, one vanilla and one chocolate.

The next step is to roll out the two chocolate rounds of dough and two of the vanilla rounds.  Then brush water between the layers and gently press them together (vanilla, chocolate, vanilla, chocolate).  And chill the dough again.

Brushing on the water,
and stacking the layers.

The next step is to slide the square of stacked doughs into thin long strips, cutting down through the layers.  Then (I told you this was a potchke) stack the slices one on top of the other, flipping every other strip around so that the vanilla is on top of the chocolate, etc. (This is a lot clearer to see than to explain).  I did three layers of strips, but I think you are supposed to be able to do four.

Stacks of alternating layers. Because the width of my layers was uneven, they colors were not 100% lined up.

Then (I’m telling you, these instructions just go on) chill the dough again.  Meanwhile help your husband organize his comic books into the new comic book boxes that your brother almost violated by trying to pack up your parent’s house into them.  These are also the same boxes that certain redheads that will remain unnamed, refused to take in her suitcase as she did not see the point of bringing empty boxes on a plane – see Certain Redhead, they are important!

After organizing a few hundred comics and opening up shelf space for hubbie’s new schoolbooks, go back to your chillin’ cookies (see how I made them cool there?)

Roll out the remaining frozen vanilla doughs into a thin rectangle.  Lay one stack of layered strips on the vanilla dough and carefully roll it over so that the vanilla cookie dough covers the entire stack.  Trim the excess and repeat with the other stacks of dough strips.  I had extra vanilla dough (mostly because I did not divide the dough evenly into four sections – I probably should have done three sections?  Not sure about that.  Either way, I made a batch of regualr square vanilla sables with the leftover dough.

Now that your stacks are nicely stacked and wrapped and you are so proud of yourself for getting this far, you need to chill the dough again! By chance I happened to bake the scraps of the dough before the rest of it and I noticed that the dough melted into the pan and lost all its shape.  It being already 11:15 or so, I was really hyper and started dancing around the kitchen before a weirded-out Rocker Dude trying to figure out what to do.  Then it hit me – chill the dough! And with a fist pump and half-spin, I proceeded to put the cookies back in the refrigerator (my freezer was way too overpacked for this).

Ready to be baked.

After about 20 minutes, I took out the first stack and sliced it into cookies to be placed on the cookie sheet – another trick here – wipe off the knife after every slice to reduce the chocolate smearing into the vanilla – it’s not perfect but it helps a lot. Bake cookies for 15 minutes while preparing goody bags and washing the dinner dishes.  Place on a cooling rack to chill again, and taste the most awesome cookies ever!  The CIA sure does know how to bake!

Recipe (from Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft):

Vanilla Dough:

501 g cake flour

400 g butter, cold, cut into small cubes

190 g confectioner’s sugar

pinch of salt

3 g orange zest, grated ( I used lemon)

113 g egg yolks (about 5)

5 mL vanilla extract

Chocolate Dough:

210 g cake flour

43 g cocoa powder

150 g butter, cold, cut into cubes

95 g confectioners’ sugar

1.5 g orange zest, grated ( I used lemon)

pinch of salt

55 g egg yolks (about 3)

2.5 mL vanilla extract

To make the vanilla dough, sift the flour.  Cream together the butter, sugar, salt and orange zest in a mixer, about 8 minutes.  Gradually add the egg yolks and vanilla, mixing until fully incorporated after each addition and scraping down as needed.  Mix in the sifted flour until just incorporated.

Divide the vanilla dough into four pieces.  Form each piece into a square and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate the dough until firm enough to roll (or freeze if you are in rush).

To make the chocolate dough, Sift the flour and cocoa powder together.  Cream the butter, sugar, orange zest and salt together, about 6-8 minutes.  Gradually add the egg yolks and vanilla, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Mix in the dry ingredients until just incorporated.

Divide the chocolate dough into two parts, form each into a square and refrigerate until firm enough to roll (or freeze).

On a lightly floured surface, roll out one piece of vanilla dough into a 6×4 inch rectangle that is about 1/4 inch thick.  Set aside.  Roll out a piece of the chocolate dough to the same dimensions.  Brush the vanilla dough lightly with water and gently press the chocolate layer on top of the vanilla square.  Repeat with another vanilla piece and another chocolate piece.  You should have four layers all together.

Wrap the layered dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze until firm.

Trim the edges of the layered dough to even them out.  Cut the square into stacks about 1/4 inch thick.  Then 4 layers on top of each other (I did only three), alternating them so that the doughs form a checkerboard.

Roll out one piece on vanilla dough to about 1/8 inch thickness.  Brush the vanilla dough with water and place one of the slacks on the dough.  Gently roll up the vanilla dough around the stack, pressing lightly on each side so that the doughs stick together.  Smooth the overlap and cut off the excess dough.  Repeat with the remaining stacks.

Refrigerate all the stacks until firm.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F or 177 degrees C.

Slice each stack into cookies, about 1/4 inch thick, wiping down the knife between each slice.  Place the cookies on a parchment paper lined cookies sheet and bake for about 15 minutes until lightly browned.  Transfer to racks and cool completely.

Where has all the rum gone?

In the spirit of the Top Chef Just Desserts episode a couple weeks ago, I have also flambeed my dessert.  The competitors had to make a dessert inspired by the Lucient Dossier experience, it’s basically like cirque de soleil with fire.

This is the first time that I have ever flambeed something and I was very excited.  I was imagining something like they do in Top Chef with big flames, so I tried to prepare accordingly.  In the end it was not as dramatic, though when I saw what they did on Top Chef Just Desserts, I realized that perhaps flambeing food as opposed to pastry might be very different, or perhaps wine flames more than liquor.

We took this dessert to our friends A. and E. (our Star Trek buddies).  I was given a request to make something chocolatey, as A. is not so into  fruit desserts, or peanut butter for that matter.  I looked through Dorie’s cookbook for something interesting and I came across this cake. It is supposed to be made with Armangnac, but I haven’t the faintest idea what that is, so I used rum because rum goes well with the prune flavor.

Whisked eggs and sugar.

I thought that adding prunes instead raisins was different and I agree with what Dorie said about prunes getting a bad rep.  Everyone always associates prunes with old people and babies (yet another similarity between the two groups, hmmm) and they are really delicious even by themselves.  People just need to give them a chance.

Chocolate mixture

I made the flambeed prunes earlier in the day and then made the rest of the cake later (you have to wait for the prunes to cool anyway).

 

Lightening the cake with the egg whites.

 

The cake came out nice and chocolatey-dense with a delicious chocolate glaze.  I let the glaze cool a bit before spreading it on the cake so it came out more like icing.  The prunes added something different to the cake that made it different from any other chocolate cake, something memorable.

 

Chocolate Glaze

The final pictures were taken by E. as I was unable to take pictures of the finished product before we ate it – she enjoyed it too!

 

 

Chocolate Rum Cake - before (photo credits to E.)
Chocolate Rum Cake - after (photo credits to E.)

Recipe (adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: from My Home to Yours):

 

Cake:

2/3 cup finely ground pecans or walnuts

1/4 cup flour

1/4 tsp. salt

12 moist prunes, pitted and cut into bits

1/4 cup plus 3 tbsp. water

1/4 cup rum

7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1 stick (8 tbsp.) unsalted butter or margarine, cut into 4 pieces

3 large eggs, separated

2/3 cup sugar

Glaze:

3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped

3 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar

3 tbsp. unsalted butter or margarine, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Butter an 8 inch springform pan, fit the bottom with a round of parchment paper and butter the paper.  Put the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

Cake: Whisk together the nuts, flour and salt.

Put the prunes and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook, being careful not to scorch the fruit, until the water almost evaporates.  Pull the pan from the heat and pour in the rum.  Stand back and set it aflame with a match.  When the flames die out, transfer the fruit and any remaining liquid to a bowl and let cool.

Combine the chocolate, butter and remaining 3 tbsp. of water in a heatproof bowl.  Heat in a microwave on medium strength in 30 second bursts until the chocolate and butter are melted.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until they are thick and pale, about 2 minutes.  Switch to a rubber spatula and, one by one, stir in the chocolate mixture, the nut mixture and the prunes with any leftover liquid.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until they hold firm and glossy peaks.  Stir about 1/4 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten the batter, then gently fold in the remaining whites.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake the cake for 25-32 minutes, or until it is puffed and a thin knife inserted into the center comes out streaky.  Let cool on a rack for about 10 minutes, then remove the cake from the pan, and continue to cool until the cake has cooled completely.  Place a piece of foil or parchment paper under the rack to catch drips.

Once cool, if the cake has crowned, take a serrated knife and gently even the top, using a sawing motion.  Turn the cake over on the cooling rack.  The flat bottom will become the top of the cake.

Glaze: Melt the chocolate in a microwave on medium heat.  Slowly stir in the sugar and then the butter or margarine.  Stir until you have a smooth glaze.

With a long icing spatula, pour the glaze over the top of the cake, allowing the excess to run down the sides of the cake.  Use the spatula to smooth the top of the cake if necessary.  Let the glaze set at room temperature.

If you would like the icing to be more like a frosting, let it cool a bit before spreading it over the cake.  Make decorative swirls in the icing once it is on the cake.

Tuesdays with Dorie: Brrrrr-ownies!

York peppermint patties and brownies, what could go wrong?  This week’s recipe was chosen by Karen of Welcome to Our Crazy Blessed Life.  She picked these delicious brownies and I couldn’t wait to try them.  One problem, where does one get York Peppermint Patties in Israel?  While most Hershey’s products are imported (and sold at exorbitant prices) these are not.  Wait, doesn’t Rocker Dude’s dad have a secret stash of York’s that magically gets refilled when people come in from the states?  (He also keeps his in the freezer.  There must be something about secret stashes and freezers – they just go well together.)

Yor Peppermint Patties

So these brownies are courtesy of Rocker Dude’s dad S.  After he reads this, Rocker Dude will be stopping by with a special shipment for him and R. his mom (but don’t tell 😉 ).

I was running late with this week’s recipe.  Usually I try to make it the week before it is due, but we were at Rocker Dude’s parents for the weekend because his nephews came in from Boston, so I did not have a chance to make these.  I even intended to make them on Sunday night, but somehow, the night got away from me and I didn’t end up going to be until 12 and still didn’t accomplish anything – oy!  So I made a conscious decision to make these brownies as soon as I came home from work on Monday.  One of Rocker Dude’s really close army friends was coming over anyway, so then we could share the calories!  Of course, the Little Rocker had a different plan in mind and did not let me leave her for a minute.  So this had to wait until she went to sleep.

We recently took the side of her crib off because she had been climbing over it to get out anyway.  And she has a history of dislocating her elbow (my family genes, can’t blame the hubby) so we didn’t want to take a chance.  Her crib is right next to a bed, so now she can stretch out over both and she can climb out of bed on her own without diving over the top of the crib rail (of course this leads to little visitors with fuzzy hair at 3 o’clock in the morning climbing into my bed, but at least she comes prepared – she brings her blankie, her stuffed monkey and her water before she climbs in – how cute!)

You can see how her crib is pressed up against the regular bed which is in turn against the wall. Oh yeah, and that's Momo, her best monkey friend.

Anyhoo, basically this means that if she does not have her eyes closed when we leave the room, she will be up knocking at her door to get out five minutes later.  Last night she decided that she really wanted me to stay with her and wouldn’t let me move, so I laid down next to her (another advantage of no crib rail) and fell asleep with her (wouldn’t you?).  Rocker Dude came in twenty minutes later to wake me up.  Okay, now we are ready to bake.

Mixing in the flour to the chocolate mixture.

This recipe was so easy and I love that it was a one-pot job.  Those are always the best recipes.  Melt chocolate and margarine – check.  Mix in the other stuff – check.  Chop up peppermint patties and mix in – check.  Bake —- done!  How much harder could it be.

All the components

As this was obviously a dairy recipe (there is a pareve version of York’s but according to S. (who is a connoisseur) they are not worth trying) I baked this in my toaster oven.  It took a bit longer to cook, but still came out wonderfully.

I was too impatient to wait for them to cool and I hat a piece while it was still burning hot.  It made for a nice contrast with the mintiness.  I will try them again when I get home (they were in the refrigerator all night) to get the total frozen minty experience.

The main ingredient

Everyone should make these – they are sooo good.

Brrrrr-ownies

Check out the recipe on Karen’s site here and see what other TWD baker’s did here.