Thursday, July 24, 2008

BakeSpace Challenge #2 - 'Simply Irresistible' Caramel Eclairs

The Mission: Re-Create a recipe from your favorite movie, or a movie that wasn't all that great, but had great food.

The Movie: 1999 Simply Irresistible - Starring Sarah Michelle Geller and Sean Patrick Flanery (What's with the 3 names?)

The Recipe: Caramel Éclairs - is also available on

I had much trial and error on this one.
At one point I thought I might have bitten off more than I could chew. I even searched the internet to get an idea of what I should do. I was amazed to find all the Caramel Éclair recipes were based on Brown Sugar.
Now I am not trying to sound all sn
obby but honestly, Brown Sugar tastes nothing like Caramel. That is like saying that maple syrup tastes like honey. They are two uniquely distinct flavors.  So I began with the one thing I knew how to do, and that was to simply make the choux paste and hope I would get struck by some sort of inspiration from the food gods.

When it came time for the pastry cream I decided to caramelize the sugar for a basic pastry cream. Thus I tried making a wet caramel first, it came out too light, without any flavor, so out the window it went and I opted to make a dry caramel the second time.
This is the point where my brains dribbled out the back of my head evidently since I conveniently forgot about the humidity.

The caramelizing part was a beautiful sight to behold. I was rather proud of myself since I usually end up burning the sugar, which is why I tried the wet caramel first.
I poured my dark amber liquid over a foil lined pan and waited for it to harden so I could powder it in the food processor. It hardened alright, with a nice sticky layer all over the exposed top due to the moisture in the air.
First rule of ANY candy making.

With the inherent stickiness of my finished caramel, it was apparent that the food processor was out of the question.

So my pastry cream was delayed for another day. I broke up the sticky caramel and mixed my liquid ingredients together, placing the broken sticky shards in the milk, covered it, placed it in the refrigerator and hoped the caramel would dissolve over night. Luckily it did. So I made my pastry cream and set it to chill.

I then whipped up my heavy cream and folded it in. Hmmm… It was still a little loose for my taste and sinc
e these had to be able to survive for about 5 hours after being filled, I went ahead and decided to whisk in some gelatin to ensure the filling did not cause the éclairs to become soggy.

I still needed some sort of frosting or glaze for the tops.
My first attempt involved making more caramel with 2 oz of sugar, then adding a little butter, milk and powdered sugar to create a sort of “Crusting” glaze. It looked great, but tasted like cornstarch; in fact, you could actually FEEL the chalky c
ornstarch with your tongue.
It was nasty!
So I went back to the drawing board by re-watching the movie segment, I noticed everyone licking his or her fingers. This meant to me that they were not topped with a frosting, but more of a viscous glaze, similar to doughnuts, but thicker.
SO, that being said I made more dry caramel with 1/2 cup sugar. I added heavy cream, butter and salt, then on a whim I added a little coriander and the zest of 1 lemon creating
more of a caramel glaze that will thicken when cooled but not crust.
I re-warmed the éclairs in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes, I went ahead and dipped the tops in the hot caramel sauce and let them cool slightly.

I filled my pastry bag with the chilled caramel pastry cream/mousse and piped them full.
Then the best part. I got to eat one!
and while it did not “Explode out my toes” or make my toes curl, it was pretty darn tasty I must say.
The subtleties of the caramel flavor were sinfully delicious without being OVERLY sweet.
The Lemon/Coriander in the glaze played well with the hint of ginger in the pastry and the deep richness of the filling was offset by its light texture.

OK. Maybe my toes DID curl, just a little.

I have rearranged these steps of the recipe according to how I will do this in the future, now that I have a recipe and experimentation is over, it stands to reason that the pastry crème should be made first so it has time to chill while the rest of the dessert is being prepared.

-----Edited January 22nd 2009 due to broken link to published recipe

And here we go. This is the final recipe for the eclairs, the pastry creme and the caramel topping.

Caramel Pastry Crème (Slightly Cheating) – Technically Pastry Crème doesn’t have gelatin in it… That actually makes it a mousse
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 Vanilla Bean scraped
4 egg yolks
3 TB Corn Starch
1 Cup Heavy Cream
(optional) 1/4 oz Gelatin
(optional) 2 TB Warm Water

Place a large skillet over medium-high flame and add the sugar. (Please do not use Teflon pans, you will not be able to see the color of the sugar.
As the sugar begins to melt, tilt the skillet back and forth very gently to move the liquefying sugar around, this will keep the coloring even.
Once the sugar is fairly uniformly dark amber (about 10 minutes), remove skillet from heat and
onto a sheet of foil (about 12 by 18 in.) and let cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes.
Combine milk, salt, vanilla seeds and the pod in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
Break caramel into smaller pieces and whirl it up in the food processor or blender, into a powder.
Peel off foil and break caramel into chunks; put in a food processor or blender and whirl into a fine powder.
As the milk heats up, add small amounts of the caramel powder and stir until melted and smooth.
Do not let the milk boil, just keep it warm and continue adding the caramel powder and stirring until all melted and smooth.
Beat egg yolks and cornstarch together until egg yolks are thick and lemon in color.
Condition yolks with a couple ladles of hot milk/caramel mixture.
Once warm add the eggs to the saucepan and whisk until thickened.
Remove from heat and pour through a fine mesh strainer to ensure there are no lumps in the custard.
Cover on the surface with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator up to 2 days.
When ready to use, whip heavy cream in a chilled bowl until stiff peaks.
Run a whisk through the pastry crème to loosen.
Fold whipped cream into pastry crème.
Check for stiffness, if pastry crème seems a little loose, cover and return to the refrigerator.
Bloom 1/4 oz Gelatin in a ramekin with 2 TB warm water for 10 minutes
Place ramekin in a small saucepan with a little water over low heat.
Once gelatin has become clear, remove from water bath and let cool slightly.
Remove pastry crème from refrigerator and begin whisking gently to check thickness.
Place bowl of pastry crème in an ice bath (to speed things up) or simply pour in the warm gelatin and whisk until it begins to stiffen.
If you are not using an ice bath cover the crème and return to refrigerator for 20 minutes.
Choux Paste:
1 cup Water
8 TB Unsalted Butter
Pinch of Salt
1 Cup Flour
1/2 tsp Ginger
4 large Eggs

Bring Water, butter and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium flame.

Once water reaches a boil, add flour

and stir quickly until the dough ball starts to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Continue to cook for 1 – 2 minutes to assure that the dough is sufficiently cooked.
Remove from heat and let rest for about 10 minutes to cool slightly.
Begin preheating the oven to 400
Once cool, add the first egg and stir briskly with a rubber spatula or “spoonula”. (You can do this with an electric mixer and paddle attachment, and normally I love my appliances, but honestly, I am convinced this works better when done by hand)
The dough will fall apart and look really odd, but with continued stirring it will rebind into a solid mass again.

Repeat this with each of the other 3 eggs.
After the addition of the last egg, you should notice that the dough has become a smooth, shiny and slightly sticky paste.

Fit a large piping bag with a large round tip (I use and 806, although I think it would be fine to not use a tip at all), fill the bag with the choux paste.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and pipe 3 inch long strips of paste at least 2 inches apart.

Place in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.
Reduce heat to 350 and bake for another 10 minutes
Remove pans from oven and with hand protection, poke a whole in the end of each éclair.
Move pan back to oven for an additional 10 minutes to ensure the insides are dried out.

Move éclairs to a cooling rack.

Caramel Glaze:
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
3 TB butter
Pinch of salt (I used grey salt, don’t know why, just did)
Zest of 1 lemon
1/4 tsp Coriander

Melt Sugar in a tall sided sauce pan over medium flame.
When liquid and dark amber in color, carefully pour in the heavy cream… Careful, it will bubble up, the sugar is at 350 degrees so the water in the heavy cream will superheat and boil almost immediately.
Stir with a whisk over low until smooth then add the salt, butter and stir until melted.
Lastly remove from heat and stir in the lemon zest and the coriander.
This will keep as well covered and stored in the refrigerator.
DO NOT dip éclairs until just before serving or they will get soggy. (I learned this the hard way.)

If you prepared the caramel topping ahead of time, re-warm over low heat.
Dip the tops of warm éclairs into the caramel sauce and set on a rack to drip and cool.
Please be careful, this sauce is still VERY hot and it IS candy so it will stick to your skin while it’s burning.
Prepare a pastry bag with injection tip.
Fill 2/3 full with pastry crème.
Poke the tip through the steam hole of your éclair and fill with the pastry crème.
Eclairs will be fine if covered and placed in the refrigerator for 2 hours, any longer and you risk sogginess.
It is preferable to serve immediately.

If you are feeling particularly fancy, you may prepare more caramel with 1/4 – 1/2 cup sugar.
After cooled to room temp, process in the blender of food processor again and sprinkle the granules over the top of the glaze right before serving for a little crunch.



Sunday, July 6, 2008

BakeSpace Challenge #1 - 5 Ingredient Entree

What is a BakeSpace Challenge you ask?
Think of it as a sort of Iron Chef Challenge, but different. Twice a month on the 1st and on the 16th a new challenge is announced. Create a recipe. What kind of recipe? Well that depends on the challenge... It can be anything from a list of ingredients to a food mentioned in a song (Savoy Truffle anyone?)
This is a new program we, the members of BakeSpace, have instituted in order to stimulate creativity within the community, but most of all, it's suppose to be fun...

1. We do not have a panel of judges, unless you have a family of 4 to cook for.
2. There is no point sy
stem, unless you want to count the "----> drools" posted to the forum after you have revealed your masterpiece.
3. The only time limit is the 2 weeks you have to complete your recipe, photograph it and post about it.

If you are interested in some fun with cooking, swing by BakeSpace and check us out in the Pantry Forums un
der BakeSpace TEST KITCHEN, were a fun group of people, I promise we wont bite.... Well, unless your hand is covered in chocolate or something..... That all being said, on with the blog......

BakeSpace Challenge #1:

Mission: Utilize these five ingredients in either 1 or 2 dishes - Onion, Chicken, Eggs, Spinach & Puff

My solution to this challenge came fairly easily due to my habit of watching Hell's kitchen. I have been watching Beef Wellington leave the kitchen all season long, and with the mention of mushrooms, puff pastry and chicken... I knew exactly what I needed to do... Due to the stuffing of spinach and onions into the chicken breast, I have refrained from calling this a Chicken Wellington... Instead I believe that Duxelles Pate Chicken en Croute fits quite well. Even if it has a few more syllables.

On the whole, I will definitely be making this again... although I will save such a dish for dinner guests and not just simply make it for myself. The nice thing is that the pate and the stuffing can be made in advance and refrigerated. This makes preparation the day of, much faster than one would think.

Saute onions - Now you have to saute onions for both mixtures, so I did them both at the same time.
The Onions/Mushrooms in a skillet and the onions for the spinach stuffing:
Once the onions for the filling are done, add them to the spinach and complete the stuffing mix...

More than likely the mushrooms will still be
cooking, once the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated, deglaze the pan with lemon juice and marsala, then add the cream, herbs and lemon zest. Toss this into the food processor with toasted almonds and puree to a pate.

In the mean time, start butterflying the chicken breasts... The wicked looking knife I am using is a great Japanese hybrid boning/fillet knife by Shun called a Gukoju, not so great for filleting fish, but fantastic for everything else.
Divide the stuffing between the 4 Chicken breasts, then either close them up with twine or use turkey trussing needles (Which I had to use, I didn't realize I was out of twine.)

By now the Pate should be done. Go ahead and remove the 1 sheet of puff pastry from the refrigerator and allow the pastry to warm a little before unfolding.
Heat a skillet and rub the chicken with olive oil, sear on all sides then remove to a plate to rest while preparing the pastry.
Roll out the pastry into a rectangle and divide into 4 equal squares, the remaining strip can be cut into decorations for the top.
Spread pate over the pastry leaving a border for sealing.

Fold pastry over and seal with egg white wash. Add decorations, using egg white wash as the glue, then give th
e whole thing another coat or egg wash. I sprinkled a little Murray River Salt from Australia over the leaves as a little extra decoration.
Bake at 400 for 18 minutes or until Pastry is puffed and GB & D (To Coin a Phrase)

Slice on the bias and serve with micro greens.

Conclusion - I thought it was delicious, although I may try this with arugala instead of spinach as the flavor is milder, or maybe use shallots or leeks instead of sweet onions. But on the whole I was really happy with it. The pate was divine on toasts.

But the absolute BEST part was that I still had a sheet of puff pastry left over... So.......

I made St. Germain Cream Horns for dessert with a St. Germain mascarpone filling and raspberries (both Golden and Red) with a little coulis from the left over berries.
St. Germain is a newer liqueur to the U.S. it is made from French ElderFlowers... It's a little on the cost prohibitive side (41 bucks a bottle) but luckily I found the little airplane size bottle for 3 dollars.
Great for adding that "little extra mysterious something that people can't quite put their finger
on" to a dessert.