Monday, August 27, 2012

August Daring Baker Challenge - Pate A Choux

Pate a choux and I are old friends. It was one of the only things I could do well at culinary school. I loved the magic that seemed to ooze from a few simple ingredients  puffing up with  color and taste. I made gougeres, eclairs, cream puffs...anything I could find to make with pate a choux, I would try. But, I never made swans and in recent years, I have not had much reason to make any pate a choux. So, it was a real delight to see  this month's challenge.

Kat of The Bobwhites was our August 2012 Daring Baker hostess who inspired
us to have fun in creating pate a choux shapes, filled with crème patisserie or Chantilly cream. We
were encouraged to create swans or any shape we wanted and to go crazy with filling flavors
allowing our creativity to go wild!

The recipe looked sound. I remembered a few techniques that helped the pate a choux rise and dry nicely so I added those in when making the recipe. Then I got crabby....really crabby. I decided that if I could make swans, I could make crabs. so I piped a lot of  crabby looking shapes in addition to swans and baked them.

I put my little crabs filled with crabmeat salad of course on the dinner plate with an orange and avocado salad. Hubby was deeeelighted.

For dessert, yes, we had swans. I made them into profiteroles filled Sweet Scoops Ginger Frozen Yogurt and perched on Coops Hot Fudge Sauce, my new obsession. The taste is rich but not overwhelming. It is better than homemade around this house.

Here is the recipe for Pate A Choux. It is a great one and easier than you may think!

Pate a Choux
(cannot be doubled)
½ cup (120 ml) (115 gm) (4 oz) butter 1 cup (240 ml) water ¼ teaspoon (1½ gm) salt 1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm) (5 oz) all-purpose flour 4 large eggs
1. Line at least two baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper, or grease pans well.
2. Preheat oven to moderately hot 375°F/190°C/gas mark 5 .
3. In a small saucepot, combine butter, water, and salt. Heat over until butter melts, then remove from stove.
4. Add flour all at once and beat, beat, beat the mixture until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pot. I put the pot back on low heat and stir it allowing water to evaporate.
5. Add one egg, and beat until well combined. Add remaining eggs individually, beating vigorously after each addition.  I use a mixer on medium low speed to add the eggs. I add them one at a tinme allowing the eggs to incorprate before adding more. Many times, I do not need to add all the eggs. I look for a consistency that is firm but loose enough to pipe through a pastry tube. Resulting mixture should be somewhat glossy, very smooth, and somewhat thick.
6. Using a ¼” (6 mm) tip on a pastry bag, pipe out about 36 swan heads. You’re aiming for something between a numeral 2 and a question mark, with a little beak if you’re skilled and/or lucky.
7. Remove the tip from the bag and pipe out 36 swan bodies. These will be about 1.5” (40 mm) long, and about 1” (25 mm) wide. One end should be a bit narrower than the other.
8. Bake the heads and bodies until golden and puffy. The heads will be done a few minutes before the bodies, so keep a close eye on the baking process.
9. Remove the pastries to a cooling rack, and let cool completely before filling.

Friday, August 10, 2012

National S'Mores Day

Happy S'mores Day to You!

There seems to be a lot of attention to S'mores this year. At the supermarket, there is an entire section devoted to marshmallows for S'mores. There is another section close by the marshmallows dedicated to all things S'more. S'more flavored candies, equipment for making your own S'mores and of course, the necessary ingredients(in addition to marshmallows) that make the S'more.
I had my first S'more at summer camp about 200 years ago when we were using fire to cook our food on a regular basis. We had walked close to 500 miles,it seemed, up a rocky path to a beautiful vista called Goat something or other and dangled our tiny legs over a deep ravine while our counselors made a giant fire in the middle of the woods. So wholesome.  They doled out the graham crackers, hershey bars and marshmallows. We had to find our own stick to toast the marshmallows. The S'mores were messy but chocolaty so I fell in love with them.
I have not had S'mores since that day but after enough trips past the S'more section of the supermarket, the marketing strategy reeled me in.
I wanted to make a less messy S'more however. I wanted it to be compact like a sandwich and easy to  serve  guests. I thought the main effort should be toasting the marshmallow followed by the big S'more reward.

I played around with a few recipes online for a chocolate chip graham cracker cookie. Then I toasted a few marshmallows and sandwiched them between two cookies. Delightful!!

The cookies, on their own are really tasty. With the toasted marshmallow, the smoky flavor comes through and elevates the cookie sandwich to nirvana. I recommend eating the cookie sandwich soon after smashing the marshmallow between two cookies. This is not a make ahead dessert or snack or breakfast item..whatever you want to label it. The marshmallow does not improve when it cools down to room temperature and the warmth of slight melting of the chocolate chips is lost. So toast up, and eat up!
Happy National S"more Day to you!

Chocolate Chip Graham Cracker Cookie
                                                      Yield: 24 cookies or 12 S'more sandwiches
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy.
Blend in egg and vanilla. Add combined flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking soda and salt.
 Mix well. Stir in chocolate chips
 Drop dough by heaping tablespoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets about 3 inches apart . Press to flatten slightly.
Bake in pre-heated oven 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on sheet about 3 minute and remove to wire racks. Cool to room temperature.

To make a S'More sandwich:

Stick a marshmallow on the end of a skewer or a stick if you're at Goat something gulch and toast the marshmallow over an open flame being careful not to toast yourself.
Set the marshmallow on the flat side of one cookie. Lay another cookie on top sandwiching the marshmallow as you remove the skewer so you won't burn your fingers on the hot mallow. Wait a minute to eat your treat so the hot marshmallow does not singe the roof of your mouth because that is a pain that no one deserves. You can use that time to get yourself a cold glass of milk.