Sunday, August 31, 2008

Daring Baker's Challenge #2 - Eclairs

I don't know quite where to begin with this challenge. I was very excited to make eclairs. I think the only other time I have made eclairs was in my 8th grade Home Ec class and they didn't seem too hard. It ended up taking me 3 tries at this recipe and I only ended up with 3 edible eclairs. The first time instead of using wax or parchment paper I used my silpat - not thinking anything of it. They all deflated. The 2nd time I used the silpat again, but ran out of room, so I put 3 of them on the wax paper - and those three worked, the others deflated. So I decided to try it one more time thinking that it had to be the silpat that made them not work. My husband had put the initial wax paper down for me, so when I went to get more I realized that was the last of what we had. So I decided it probably couldn't hurt to just reuse the was paper. I was wrong - those eclairs also deflated. The eclair and a half that I ate was pretty tasty, although probably not worth all of the work!!

1 of the 3 survivors - sorry the picture isn't so beautiful, I had had it at this point!

They came out of the oven looking great!

My many rejects

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assembling the éclairs:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chocolate Pastry Cream
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by PierreHermé

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**For the inside of my eclairs I just mixed vanilla pudding and whip cream. I also just made an easy chocolate frosting. I wasn't going to go to all of the work above for 3 eclairs.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Chicken Pizzaiola

from America's Test Kitchen

3 cups tomato sauce (see recipe below) or you can use a jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (1 cup)
4 ounces mozzarella, shredded (1 cup)
2 ounces pepperoni, sliced thin or any of your favorite pizza toppings

Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 450 degrees. Spread the tomato sauce in a 9 by 13 inch baking dish.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Spread the Parmesan in a shallow dish, then coat the chicken with the Parmesan. lay the chicken on top of the tomato sauce. Bake for 15 minutes.

Sprinkle the mozzarella and pepperoni over the chicken. Increase the oven temperature to 475 degrees and continue to bake until the cheese melts and chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes longer.

Quick Tomato Sauce:

3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
3 Tbsp minced fresh basil
1/4 tsp sugar

Cook the oil and garlic in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, until fragrant but not browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in the crushed and diced tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, 15 to 20 minutes.

Stir in the basil and sugar. Season with salt to taste.

Parmesan Focaccia

from America's Test Kitchen

1 russet potato (8 ounces), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp yeast
1 1/4 tsp table salt
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for the baking sheet
Parmesan Cheese
3/4 tsp coarse sea salt or 1 1/4 tsp kosher salt

Cover the potato with water in a small saucepan and simmer until completely cooked and easily pierced with a knife, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and when the potato is cool enough to handle, grate it on the large holes on the grater. Reserve 1 1/3 cups lightly packed potato.

Mix 3 1/4 cups of the flour, yeast, and table salt together in a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook. With the mixer on low speed, add the grated potato, water, and 2 Tbsp of the oil until the dough comes together, about 1 minute.

Increase the speed to medium-low and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. (If, after 5 minutes, more flour is needed, add the remaining 1/4 cup flour, 1 Tbsp at a time, until the dough clears the side of the bowl but sticks to the bottom.

Turn the dough out onto a clean counter and knead by hand to form a smooth, round ball, about 1 minute. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and wrap tightly in lastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Press the dough into a well-oiled 12 by 18 inch rimmed baking sheet. Wrap loosely in lightly greased plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until it has nearly doubled in size and springs back slowly when indented with a finger, 45 to 60 minutes.

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Wet your fingers and press them into the dough at regular intervals to make about 24 dimples. Drizzle with the ramining 2 Tbsp oil and sprinkle evenly with Parmesan and sea salt. Bake util the focaccia bottom is golden and crisp, 20 to 25 minutes.

Slide the focaccia onto a wire rack and let cool slightly before cutting into squares.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Philly Cheesesteaks

2 pounds blade, sirloin, or round steak, trimmed
4 (6 inch) sub rolls, split lengthwise
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped medium
Salt and pepper
6 slices American or provolone cheese

Slice meat into thin strips.
Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until simmering. Add the onions and saute until softened and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the sliced meat, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper and continue to cook until the beef is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.

Place rolls on a baking sheet. Add the meat and onions. Place the cheese on top. Stick under the broiler until cheese is melted.

Creamy Stovetop Mac N' Cheese

8 ounces macaroni (2 cups)
2 large eggs
1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
1 tsp dry mustard, dissolved in 1 tsp water
4 Tbsp butter
12 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (3 cups)

Bring 2 quarts water to a boil in a large pot for the macaroni. Stir in 1 1/2 tsp salt and the macaroni and cook until almost tender but still a little firm to the bite.
Meanwhile, mix together the eggs, half of the evaporated milk, the mustard mixture, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper.
Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Set the pot over low heat and stir in the butter until melted.
Stir in the egg mixture and half of the cheddar. Continue to cook over low heat, gradually stirring in the remaining milk and cheddar, until the mixture is hot and creamy, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

This is best served immediately.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

White Chocolate Biscotti

3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Place first 3 ingredients in a large bowl, beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, level with a knife. Combine flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to sugar mixture, beating until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips.
Turn dough out onto a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Shape dough into 2 (12 inch-long) rolls; pat to 2 1/2 inch width.*
Bake at 300 degrees for 35 minutes. Remove rolls from baking sheet, cool 10 minutes on a wire rack.**
Cut each roll diagonally into 24 slices. Place, cute sides down, on baking sheet. Bake at 300 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. Turn cookies over, bake an additional 10 minutes (cookies will be slightly soft in the center but will harden as they cool). Remove from baking sheet; cool completely on wire rack.

*You can shape in 2 rolls or 1 if you want longer cookies. In the picture below I dough in to 1.
**I don't cook it as long as the recipe calls because I don't like them so crunchy...although I know that is what Biscotti is. At first I cook for 30 minutes instead of 35. Then when you bake them on their sides I only bake them 5 minutes on each side.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Angel Hair Chicken Pasta

6 boneless,skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup butter
1 (7oz) pkg dry Italian-style salad dressing mix
1/2 cup white wine
1 can cream of mushroom soup
4 oz cream cheese with chives
1 lb angel hair pasta

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Stir in salad dressing mix. Blend in wine and mushroom soup. mix in cream cheese and stir until smooth. heat through but do not boil. Arrange the chicken breasts in a single layer in 9X13 pan. Pour the sauce over chicken. Bake for 60 minutes. Twenty minutes before chicken is done, cook pasta. Serve chicken and sauce over pasta.

Brown Sugar Banana Nut Bread

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla
4 very ripe bananas, mashed
2 cups all purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Crumb Topping:

In a bowl combine: 2 Tbsp sugar, 1/8 tsp cinnamon, 1 Tbsp butter, and 1/8 tsp baking powder.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9X5 inch loaf pan.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in the eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition. Stir in vanilla and bananas. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
Blend the banana mixture into the flour mixture; stir just to combine. Fold in walnuts. Pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle crumb topping on top.
Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted into center of loaf comes out clean. (I think I only cooked it for about 45 minutes - but my oven seems to be hotter).