Sunday, August 31, 2008

Daring Bakers: Chocolate Éclairs by Pierre Hermé

Our wonderful hosts for the Daring Bakers challenge this month were Tony Tahhan and MeetaK. You can find the recipes we used for this challenge on Tony's and Meeta's blogs.

Their challenge for us was the Chocolate Éclairs by Pierre Hermé with the following specifications:
  • The dough used for the eclairs must be a pâte à choux from Pierre Hermé
  • Keep one chocolate element in the challenge. Choose which chocolate element you want to keep. Then feel free to mix and match flavors to the base recipe.
Ready to fill...

I decided that since this is my first  Daring Bakers Challenge I wasn't going to deviate.  I elected to make both the chocolate pastry cream and the chocolate glaze.  However, I have extra dough piped and in the freezer so I'm going to bake them and fill with vanilla pastry cream (I think I'll use Dorie Greenspan's vanilla pastry cream from Baking: From My Home to Yours).

I'll discuss in the order I made everything because I'll get confused otherwise. (hey, I have four kids five and under - I barely have a brain)

The Chocolate Sauce - this was really easy to make: chocolate, water, cream and sugar - boil, stir constantly, reduce heat, continue to stir until thickens.  Easy peasy.  My sauce separated some and I'm not sure what the deal was there - I don't *think* I overheated it; but this was the first time I'd made chocolate sauce, so I may have. It didn't taste burned or anything.  :::shrug::: 

The Chocolate Glaze -  this one got me in trouble on Sunday morning, my husband got up Sunday morning and wondered why the kitchen was so hot.  I'd left the burner on all night long!!!! ACK!  Thankfully our house didn't burn down.  Since it called for 7 tablespoons of the chocolate sauce, I had to deal with the separation a little bit. More annoying than anything else - didn't seem to affect the taste and when I glazed the eclairs, they looked fine.

The Chocolate Pastry Cream - I managed to not scramble all of the yolks (yay!)  I had a teeny bit of scrambling when I strained the mixture - hey, look ma! I can temper eggs (another thing Martha Stewart always intimidated me by doing).  Brad had to help me because Harrison was flipping out and I had to calm him, plus get the chocolate melted (duh!).  He did a great job of getting it to the point that it was ready for the ice water bath.  This stuff...deadly yummy! 

The Pâte à Choux - I'm not sure why I'd always let Martha intimidate me about pâte à choux - honestly, it wasn't difficult at all!  It came together wonderfully and piped well, too.  However, I've learned an important lesson - when you have a 2 year-old who likes to pull the knobs off the stove - make certain that when hubby puts them back on - he does it correctly.  Translation - when you turn it to BAKE - make sure the BROILER isn't on.  (duh!)  I realized the error about 4 minutes in to the baking time and corrected it.  It didn't seem to affect the choux all that much.  It puffed wonderfully but the "broiled" ones got a little darker (not too dark, though).

Ready to eat...

The girls and Brad each tried an eclair before we left for Care Group and they declared them "delicious" (or, as Nin says "Dee-yi-shush!").  Everyone at Care Group said they were really good and several people had more than one.  I came home with an empty platter.  I'm glad I was able to have a little extra dough so I piped about a dozen more (this makes me think I didn't pipe the original ones "fat" enough) and they're in the freezer ready to bake!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

A couple of weeks ago I decided I'd get Brad's bread machine (collective gasp goes up around the baking world - how dare she?!) out of the garage. Hey, this is helping me work my way out of my fear of yeast breads, okay? Please don't beat me.

When we got the machine out,
Elizabeth and I stirred up a sourdough starter and we've used it several times to make dough (which then got shaped and baked off in the oven - we've made sourdough French bread a couple of times - and the leftovers were used for French toast breakfast the next morning). Friday evening I made the dough for the Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls Elizabeth has been asking for since we made the starter. While I was nursing Harrison, Brad mixed up the filling for the cinnamon rolls (I'm so thankful I have a husband who will help like that) and I made the cinnamon rolls after I got BabyMan in bed. Elizabeth was thrilled to have cinnamon rolls Saturday morning for breakfast. I wish I had photos but I was at the office when they went into and came out of the oven. What follows are the recipes for the starter and the rolls. Both are from Better Homes & Gardens.

Sourdough Starter
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water (105° to 115°F)
3 cups warm water (105° to 115°F)
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons granulated sugar or brown sugar

To make starter: Dissolve yeast in the 3/4 cup warm water. Add the 3 cups warm water; stir in flour and sugar. Beat with an electric mixer on medium spead just until smooth. Cover with 100% cotton cheesecloth. Let stand at room temperature (75° to 85°F) for 5 to 10 days or until mixture has a sour, fermented aroma, stirring 2 or 3 times a day [or, if you're like me, whenever you remember "Oh yeah, I have some starter over there in the corner"]. A warmer rooms speeds the process. When the starter has fermented, transfer it to a 2-quart or larger plastic container with a tight fitting lid and refrigerate.

To use starter: Stir starter thoroughly after removing it from the refrigerator. Measure amount needed; bring to room temperature. The cold starter should be the consistency of buttermilk or thin pancake batter. If necessary, add water to thin the starter after it is stirred and before measuring.

For each cup of starter used, replenish remaining starter by stirring in 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup water and 1 teaspoon granulated or brown sugar. Cover; let mixture stand at room temperature for at least 1 day or until bubbly. Refrigerate. If not used within 10 days, stir in 1 teaspoon granulated or brown sugar. Repeat every 10 days unless starter is replenished.

Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls
(this is for a 2-pound capacity machine)
1 1/3 cups Sourdough Starter
1/3 cup water
1 egg
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons butter
4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
2/3 cup chopped pecans (I'll leave these out next time due to a child's preference)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons melted butter
1/3 cup whipping cream
Powdered Sugar Glaze (optional)

Add the first 8 ingredients to the machine accordin to the manufacturer's directions (for example, mine - as most do - have you add the salt with the liquid and the yeast with the flour - but the salt and yeast need to stay separate, initially). Select the dough cycle. When the cycle is complete, remove dough from machine. Punch down, cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, for the filling, in a small mixing bowl stir together the pecans, sugars and cinnamon.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into an 18 x 12-inch rectangle. Brush with melted butter. Fill and roll, starting from a long side, seal edge. Cut into 18 slices; place cut side down in 2 greased 8x8x2-inch baking pans or 9x1 1/2-inch round baking pans. Cover and let rise in a warm place about 30 minutes or until nearly doubled. Drizzle whipping creamover rolls. Bake rolls in a 375° F oven for 20 - 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pan about 5 minutes, invert onto a wire rack. Drizzle with Powdered Sugar Glaze, if desired.

Powdered Sugar Glaze
In a small mixing bowl stir together 1 cup sifted powdered sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Stir in enough milk (1 to 2 tablespoons should be plenty) to make a glaze of drizzling consistency.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Chewy - Alton Brown

One of my favorite episodes of Good Eats is the one where Alton makes three different types of chocolate chip cookies for his "sister."  I love the science he covers in this particular show - the choice of "fat" for the cookie (butter, melted butter, or butter flavor shortening), the choice of flour (bread or AP), and the ratio of brown to white sugar all affect the outcome.  And no where does he require that dough be chilled for something ridiculous like 36 hours.

I like chewy chocolate chip cookies.  Thin and crispy are fine, puffy and cakey are my least favorite; but, ah, the chewy...makes my mouth water to think about them. I love them.  I've been craving them lately and so I decided I'd make a batch of The Chewy.  One cool thing - it calls for one egg plus one yolk.  Well, the first egg I had sitting on the counter had apparently read the recipe and took care of that within itself. It was a double-yolked egg.  My husband had used all the milk for the girls' cereal so I had a choice to make - buttermilk or heavy cream.  Even though the recipe has baking soda in it, I went with the buttermilk.  I would tell you whether or not it made a difference in the baked cookies; I would have pictures of the baked cookies for ate the dough.

I know.  Danger! Danger, Will Robinson! Salmonella!!!  But it was so. good.  Yummy sweet cream butter.  Over a cup of brown sugar. Caramelly-flavored delicious.  Hey, it wasn't just me as the other adult in my house definitely was dipping a spoon in the dough, too.  The kids, however, were not.  I would make sure they were asleep before I ate any dough because I didn't want to have to say "do as I say, not as I do."   Actually I did bake nine cookies - three for each of the girls.  I didn't take pictures because they barely got cooled before the girls snagged them and ran (smart girls).

And so, here is the recipe for my favorite chocolate chip cookie dough.  I'm telling you, they are the. best. I don't care WHAT the NY Times saysTHESE are the perfect chocolate chip cookies - but of course, they're Alton Brown's and what does he not do perfectly? 

The Chewy
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Ice cream scooper (#20 disher, to be exact) I use the medium scoop from Pampered Chef
Parchment paper
Baking sheets


Heat oven to 375 degrees F.
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.
Pour the melted butter in the mixer's work bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar. Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed. Add the egg, yolk, 2 tablespoons milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Chill the dough, then scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets, 6 cookies per sheet. Bake for 14 minutes or until golden brown, checking the cookies after 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet for even browning. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.