Sunday, August 31, 2008

Daring Bakers: Chocolate Eclairs

Um, where did this month go? I would love to know if anybody has an answer for that. Apparently I am still lost somewhere in the middle of the month, and while I made the eclairs quite a while ago, I completely forgot to draft a post for these and have it scheduled to pop up today. Well I didn't and it is post day, so here we go. Special thanks to Tony and Meeta for this fun challenge.

I was fantastically suprised by the simplicity of making cream puff dough, also known as Choux Pastry. I like the term cream puff dough, it's less scary. Anyway, the dough comes together very quickly which is nice. For the glaze, I actually made a ganache type glaze because I was not feeling the idea of making a sauce and then using that sauce to make a glaze. A little overboard in my opinion. As for the cream, I stuck with the recipe given, but I played around with it a little. I made three types of pastry cream, and in turn made three batches of dough to fill. My three types were chocolate, peanut butter (my fave), and raspberry, a tad runny but very yummy.

Since I made three batches of dough, I experimented a lot with the baking process, as I noticed that a lot of people had problems with their pastries sinking in. Despite my efforts, half of every batch of mine sank in. No worries though, I just stuffed them so full of pastry cream that they puffed right back up.

The verdict of this recipe was definitely positive. Well, everyone except Glenn really loved them. He just said they were too much like a doughnut for him. I took all three batches of eclairs/cream puffs to work and they were SOOOOO well received. I work at a school so I have plenty of people to survey. The peanut butter was officially the favorite, those went first. It was a nice thick pastry cream with just enough peanut butter in it. A sophisticated Reese's Peanut Butter Cup is what someone told me. The chocolate chocolate ones were the second favorite. I had a lot of pre-menstrual women come in all at once and snatch up any remaining chocolate eclairs. Those were happy women. The raspberry ones were very well liked but they also got a nasty reputation. The ROTC officer dubbed them pastry grenades, because one bite into them and raspberry pastry cream went everywhere. I admit, they did "explode" a bit, but not that dramatically. I got the principal and a few teachers to get lovely pastry cream smears on their nice clothes. I did have an OxyClean spray handy in my purse so it was all good.

In the end, I was glad I made these. It was nice to try something new, especially something that isn't too difficult and doesn't take an excessive amount of time. Thanks for the pick Tony and Meeta, I had lots of fun.

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.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

As if One Weren't Enough

I have this blog, XplicitSweetness where I post my baking exploits along with Tuesdays With Dorie and The Daring Bakers. Then I decided to add The Drunken Cupcake to my repertoire. I plan on actually publishing a cookbook about drunken cupcakes, and the site is really just an organizer for me. Anyway, Glenn decided it would be fun to create yet another blog, Baseball Cupcakes. It's a cute idea I have to admit. He's been doing the recipe researching and I have been doing the baking. We're big baseball fans, and it's just another fun thing to do. Anyway, check out my new site(s). They're kinda fun and you might get a tasty recipe to try out of it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

TWD: Chocolate Banded Ice Cream Torte

Once again, I am totally slacking in regards to TWD. I am barely pulling all this together at the last minute. Next week I swear I will have my post by Tuesday, 12:01 AM. It's not that I don't want to do the recipes, because I want to do every last one. It's just that somehow, ever since I started my new job, my time at home disappears. I am completely clueless as to how this happens though because I don't bring any work home. I'm a counseling secretary at a high school, there is not much to stress about yet (at least until testing comes around) and I don't have any stuff that I could bring home even if I wanted to. I'm baking at the same pace that I always do, but still, my time disappears too quickly and I end up being late for TWD. Oh well, I'm still getting it done.

Anyway, this week's recipe chosen by Amy of Food, Family, and Fun. I had to beg Glenn to let me buy the optional Chambord for this recipe. I LOVE raspberries and I just started dreaming up all the ways that I could use the Chambord in my baking. The stuff smells amazing by the way. Once I got down to it and read the recipe I was a bit weirded out. The eggs. This isn't getting baked at all mind you. I'm also not one to balk at the idea of eating raw eggs in wonderful creations like cookie dough, but the eggs in this recipe just seemed so weird to me. Who am I to doubt Dorie though so I forged ahead despite my doubts. You can see what I am talking about by heading over to Amy's blog to see the recipe.

In the end, I found this process to be easy but a little on the time consuming side, but what do you really expect when you make something frozen? I enjoyed this because it combines two of the best things, raspberries and chocolate, and it's frozen. It's hard to not like something frozen when you live in 115 degree daily weather in Arizona. Yes, woe is me. In any event, I think this would make a great party dessert. It looks rather impressive and it is simple and yummy. Long story short though, I have no pictures for now. I really don't want to mess it up and since it is getting a little on the later side, I am going to wait until it is completely frozen tomorrow and cut it then. I promise it's done though! Just sitting amongst the frozen veggies in my freezer. This week's TWD in one word: cold

The Drunken Cupcake

Now I can see why Glenn can get all sorts of non-sensical things done while he is at work. He can plan a wedding, he can build me websites, he can write baseball articles... the list goes on. Now I have found that I also have a good amount of time on my hands, for the time being, so I have created a new blog called The Drunken Cupcake. So far, there is nothing new on there, just a couple repeats from here, but I wanted to get it started. Anyway, I think people like me better at work when I spike the cupcakes, so I will probably get more regular in the cupcake posting department. Anyway, stop by to check it out and vote in the poll.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

TWD: Granola Grabbers

Hmmm, what to say about these um, cookies, if you will. They weren't bad. They weren't terribly life alteringly good either. They were decent cookies. I can't say that my granola grabbers were the same "healthier" version in the book, but mine were more like the rebellious spawn. I don't care for raisins in cookies, so I took them out and swapped them with white chocolate chips. I didn't feel like peanuts, and Glenn doesn't like slivered almonds, so I took those out as well. I subbed candied pecans in place of both types of nuts, and I must say that it was very wise to do so. My blend of french vanilla granola (courtesy of Fresh & Easy) along with the white chocolate chips, candied pecans, and dark brown sugar instead of light proved to be a tasty cookie.

Glenn took some to work, as usual, and I got the dreaded "they were okay" comment from him. He said people liked them, but definitely weren't crazy about them like they were with my CCCs or the sinful brownies I made. Oh well, I can't be absolutely amazing all the time.

These aren't terribly attractive cookies either... hmmm.

Thanks to Michelle of Bad Girl Baking I ventured out and tried something I probably would have overlooked in the first place. I did enjoy these, and it was a fun process that was really very easy. This week's TWD in one word: crunchy

Sunday, August 17, 2008

You Are So Beautiful, To Me

Oh my goodness, I have finally reached Chocolate Chip Cookie (CCC) Nirvana, and oh how beautiful it is. I think it is a common goal of every baker to find their perfect CCC recipe. For some it is the Toll House recipe, and for others it is a recipe passed down from generation to generation. I was fairly happy with the Toll House recipe, but it wasn't giving me what I wanted. I wanted a big thick cookie that looked beautiful on the outside, but perfectly soft and chewy on the inside. Most importantly, I wanted crispy, but not burnt edges. I figured that just wasn't going to ever happen, so I settled with the old faithful Toll House.

Things change though. Change they did after I found myself browsing Amy's blog South in Your Mouth and I saw that she did a CCC comparison between two recipes, one from David Lebovitz and the other from Jacques Torres. Judging from Amy's pictures, I knew that Jacque's cookies were destined to be mine. I followed the recipe very closely, and despite the protests of my tastebuds and my chocolate cravings, I refrigerated the dough for a full 36 hours.

How did it all end? Like I said earlier, this is Nirvana. The second I took them out of the oven I started dancing around and singing "You are so beautiful, to me! Can't you see? You're everything I hoped for, you're everything I need!" You know how it goes. They looked perfect, but how did they hold up in the taste tests? Glenn says to me, after I stopped staring at him, anticipating his first bite, "It's like you made these in heaven and brought them down here to me." Ahhh, I couldn't be happier, or could I? After the obligatory photo shoot with these beauties, I sat down with a glass of milk, a plate of cookies, and an open mind. My mind was officially blown. Perfectly sweet, chewy, just enough chocolate, and yes, crispy edges. There you have it. I have found my perfect CCC. The search has ended, well, at least until someone tells me there is something better out there. Thank you Amy for inspiring me with your lovely pictures, and thank you Mr. Torres for creating the most unbelievable CCC's I have ever devoured.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Searching For My Lost Shaker of Salt... Salt.... Salt

I don't know what it is that is going on at our house, but we are now on Round 2 of Drunken Cupcakes. We asked our friend Calogero what his favorite drink was and he said Margaritas. Since it was his birthday last weekend, I decided to make him Margarita Cupcakes. You know what? There are no good recipes out there for Margarita Cupcakes! At least in my opinion. I wanted something that tasted like a margarita, not something that had the essence of margaritas (and I mean a citrusy flavor as opposed to tequila). I ended up making up my own recipe.

How did that go? Let's just say everyone is very happy. Calogero loved them. Glenn loves them. Glenn's coworkers love them, and I already have a few of my new coworkers requesting I bring them some. After I did so, I was told that I am officially "in." This was probably my most adventurous baking endeavor yet. I was really proud of myself. I don't really feel like typing up the whole recipe, but if you want it, just drop me a line and I will eventually get around to getting it to you.

By the way, this is definitely an ADULT cupcake. They are quite alcoholic but are a great dessert for any adult gathering. Woohoo!

TWD: Blueberry Sour Cream Ice Cream

Sorry for the late post, but I just started a new job at a school and I have been taking care of registration there. I have no idea what I am doing, but I am picking it up a little at a time. It's just crazy swamped and I come home much happier than I did at my other crappy job, but it's been a bit exhausted.

I was pretty excited to make this recipe this week. Target had blueberries on sale so I picked up a bunch, and sour cream is always cheap, so it was nice to have a cheap recipe to make. When I was blending everything together in the blender (only like the 3rd time I've used it since we got married) I tasted a little bit of it and spit it out. I really thought this was disgusting. I mean this as no offense to Dolores of Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity, because I was really excited to try this, but really, without the extra cup of sugar that I added to it, I think it was nasty.

Bottom line, I don't like sour cream so this wasn't a sweet enough recipe for me. Glenn liked it a lot, so that is good I suppose. This week's TWD in one word: sour

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Million Dollar Cupcakes

Okay, so maybe they didn't cost a million dollars to make, and I am not selling them for a million dollars, but these were some pretty expensive cupcakes. These lovelies are called Irish Car Bomb cupcakes. For those of you who don't know what an ICB is, it is a glass of Guiness that gets a shot of Bailey's and Jameson bombed into it. You have to drink it really fast before it starts to curdle. Sounds fun right? Well, I have never had one, but it was Glenn's favorite drink back in his "drinking days" and he just loved it.

I was just browsing the internet the other day when I came across this recipe and I mentioned it to Glenn. He got this smile on his face and he just said yum. Since we were going to go out to a friend's house to have dinner and I was assigned to make dessert, Glenn suggested I make these cupcakes. Needless to say, in a non-drinking home, we didn't have any of the booze on hand. We went out to the grocery store and bought a bottle of Jameson for about 30 bucks, a bottle of Guiness for about 2 bucks, and a bottle of Bailey's for another 20 bucks or so. Sheesh! I seriously cannot believe that I spent that much money to make cupcakes. At least I will have plenty more when I want to make these again. It's strange how much alcohol I have accumulated for baking purposes only.

I'll be honest, and say I was a bit skeptical when making these, but they turned out so beautifully! When I filled the cups 2/3 full, they baked up with perfect round domes on top that didn't sink in after cooling. They were nice and moist and the frosting was delicious. I also added some milk to my frosting and improvised the amounts of Jameson and Bailey's according to our tastes. I suggest you tailor it to your tastes rather than follow the ambiguous directions. If you are in need of a drunken cupcakes, I really suggest you give these babies a shot, you won't be sorry.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

TWD: Black & White Banana Loaf

Well, I can't marble anything to save my life. I've tried a handful of times but I just can't get it. Although, this time shouldn't really count because I, like many other TWD bloggers were cursed with the runny batter. I have a few theories. Too much banana, too mushy bananas, overly melted butter... those are my best guesses. I think my issue was a combo of very mushy bananas, because I let them get black which took a lot of willpower on my part. Bananas are so nasty, especially when they ferment on the counter and look nasty. Also, I stuck my butter underneath the oven heat release vent to speed up the room temperature process and instead got very drippy butter. Anyway, I just can't marble.

Funny story, I thought this week's TWD was actually next week's. When we were at the grocery store, there was a certain item on sale that I bought in preparation of next week's recipe and I made it. I started my draft for the post and checked the TWD site and realized I made the recipe a week early. ARGHH... That's okay, I took a couple bananas from work the same day because I was just gonna make both recipes the same day. Alas, I did not. We left for LA on Saturday morning and I just didn't have the time. I came home to some nasty bananas that were ripe for the baking.

I say nasty bananas all the time because bananas are nasty. I hate them actually. There is an exception though. I will eat bread type things that contain banana, i.e. banana bread, banana nut muffins, probably not cake though. I am a weird person. Aside from that, I like this bread, or cake, whatever. I think it will taste even better tomorrow when all the flavors really have a chance to come out and what not. The crust is super yummy too, mine came out perfectly crunchy. I made a couple additions though; 1/3 cup chopped walnuts in the plain batter, and 1/3 cup chocolate chips in the chocolate batter. Yum! This week's TWD in one word: banana-y

Monday, August 4, 2008

Last Time... I Promise!

Alright, alright, this is getting redundant I know. I just finally got around to working on the website for Chocolate Fixation and it's now underway. Feel free to visit it, but it will be a bit wonky until I work all the kinks out. Blogger wasn't working the way I wanted it so I switched to WordPress and I am still getting used to it. Anyway, I am working on adding members and if anyone wants to join I just need your name that you want to appear along with your email and the name and address of your blog. My goal is to have the site completely finished before September starts. Feel free to email me at or just leave a comment.

I Got Your Crazy