Saturday, August 30, 2008

Russian Cops

Good Lookking Russian Cops

Daring Bakers - Eclairs~Vanilla Bean Custard, Lime Custard, Chocolate Whipped Cream Filling, Chocolate Custard Fillings

Daring Bakers have been creating delicious and decadent eclairs of all types and flavors! Experimenting with combinations of chocolate, cream puff dough and glazes, with or without chopped nuts and other delectables has been a tasty challenge for all of us fun loving bakers. You just have to go and see how versatile this recipe is by clicking on the Daring Bakers! Whose idea behind this challenge? Oh, most definitely a huge hug goes to both Meeta of What's For Lunch Honey? . . .and her co-host. . .Tony of Olive Juice. They chose chocolate eclairs from not just any creative chef BUT from the elite Pierre Herme from the cookbook Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme and written by Dorie Greenspan. . .another favorite chef! I have this beautiful and informative cookbook in my library so I was able to look up all the different parts to this recipe and also to find out that there is also an addition of a chocolate whipped cream recipe that is divine.

I made all the elements of the chocolate eclairs listed in the recipe by Pierre Herme but I also added my own twists, such as a vanilla bean custard that is so good it will make any vanilla lover swoon, the chocolate whipped cream that required overnight chill in the refrigerator, and a beautifully light colored lime custard that would be just as delicious in a tart of it's own. All of the custards were topped with a decorative piping of chocolate whipped cream, chocolate glaze, and toasted, chopped macadamia nuts or just the decadent chocolate glaze. The chocolate sauce used in the chocolate glaze is finger dipping delicious but when added to the short list of ingredients making up the glaze, well, simply Wow! Tongue Dipping Good! This is a glaze that I will forever want to use again and again. My favorite custard filling? My vanilla bean custard. The chocolate custard is bowl licking good but I think there is a little too much corn starch called for in the recipe. This is one of those issues that I just didn't see coming. . .my custard thickened too fast. . .in fact, so fast that I had a bowl of thick chocolate paste instead of a smooth and delectable chocolate custard. I would turn the heat down on my stovetop a little more and add a little less corn starch the next time. The only thing I had missing on my eclairs was a marachino cherry to top everything off. Was this challenge fun? The eclairs were an absolute blast to make and the combinations are endless. I just happen to love the traditional vanilla custard filling with a decadent chocolate glaze. The eclair pastry itself? Yum! Not eggy but instead a true cream puff pastry dough that does the taste buds a service for being a conveyor for further flavors.

Pierre Herme's recipes that come together to make the perfect chocolate eclair include 3 elements. A Choux Pastry, a chocolate pastry cream, and a chocolate glaze that requires a chocolate sauce as part of the ingredients. You can find all of these recipes when you click on Meeta's or Tony's site highlighted above.
I love Herme's Cream Puff Pastry recipe. I made the whole batch into smaller eclairs so that I could try all my different custards and fillings. I even used my blueberry ice cream as a filler but for some reason the picture is evading me. You know the recipe from Dorie Greenspan that the TWD'ers did making the sourcream and blueberry ice cream? For those of you who don't, the recipe is found in her Baking, From my home to yours cookbook and the ice cream is not only delicious but a beautiful lavender color that is excellent for pairing with other fun colors and flavors. . .including chocolate.
I think the hardest part to the cream puff recipe was beating the mixture on the stove top for a whole 3 minutes until the dough dries out. Having a KA mixer definantly saves the day for mixing all the eggs in, one at a time. I think next time I will add just a tad more sugar to the recipe and use my vanilla flavored granulated sugar. I am a vanilla fanatic. I know, I know, vanilla sounds bland to many but I don't think so. I order vanilla beans through a co-op at 30 to 50 beans per bag and the flavor, aroma, and color of these long, dark brown vanilla beans are just beautiful. Some are so fresh, there are actually little white crystals formulated on the outside of the bean. Delicious!
I still need practice piping my eclair shapes because this time I wasn't sure what size a 2cm tip was and the tip used for this batch was too small. I feel like I am in a Goldilocks story here. =). The next time I will use a tip twice the size so there is no grunting noises needed while squeezing the dough through the tip. Heart shaped eclairs was the idea but creating straight little eclairs was a happy ending.
Baking and timing seems to be a tricky skill I need to work on. The eclairs were golden brown and puffed up in the oven but after taking them out, most of the little eclairs deflated. I had this same problem when I made Dorie Greenspan's recipe for the large choux pastry so I 5 minutes was added to the baking time. Only a couple of the cute little eclairs were perfectly done and the rest still had a bit of doughy consistency in the middle. Not enough to damage the end product but enough to not have a perfect eclair.
The Chocolate Glaze is a recipe that has to be as good as if not better then any top quality chocolate glaze purchased at an exorbitant price from any reputable retailer. Delicious, silky smooth, and intense but not overwhelming chocolate flavor. Adding a Chocolate Sauce to the chocolate glaze is something unheard of in my kitchen. The chocolate sauce was so hard to keep fingers and spoons out of until the right amount was added to the glaze. Ice cream dishes were immediately taken out of the cupboard shelf just so the smooth and creamy, warm sauce could be tasted correctly on a scoop of cold ice cream. Watching the ice cream melt slightly as soon as the sauce was drizzled on created just enough anticipation for getting to scoop out as much sauce as ice cream in the first bite. Oh so good!
My lime custard actually came from The Barefoot Contessa's Lime Curd Tart found at the Food Network website. Just click on the highlighted link =) for the original but here is what I used:
Lime Curd Filling:
4 limes at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
4 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt
Remove the zest of 4 limes with a vegetable peeler or zester, being careful to avoid the white pith. Squeeze the limes to make 1/2 cup of juice and set the juice aside. Put the zest in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the sugar and process for 2 to 3 minutes, until the zest is very finely minced. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter with the sugar and lime zest. Add-- the eggs, 1 at a time, and then add the lime juice and salt. Mix until combined.
Pour the mixture into a 2-quart saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 10 minutes. The lime curd will thicken at about 175 degrees F, or just below a simmer. Remove from the heat and set aside.
I would cook this mixture a little longer next time just to be more like a custard thickness. This time, the lime filling was cooked about 18 minutes and refrigerated over night but still just a little to thin. I had oozing over the sides of the eclairs. If you like a fresh lime flavor was just a little tart bite, then this is the tart curd for you. Me too! I loved it. Just the right amount of sweetness for me along with the intense lime flavor. I believe finding the ripest limes for the recipe has everything to do with getting the correct flavor. If the limes are hard, do not use for this recipe until the fruit is all the way ripe. You will taste the difference.
My vanilla bean custard filling is written down by my Mom so I have no idea where it came from. I apologize to the chef behind this delicious and perfect every time, vanilla bean custard.
Vanilla Bean Custard
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 t. salt
2 c. half-and-half or light cream
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise or 1 teaspoon vanilla
4 beaten egg yolks
In a heavy saucepan stir together sugar, flour, and salt. Gradually stir in the half-and-half or light cream. Add vanilla bean, if using. Cook and stir over medium heat till thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 1 minute more.
Gradually stir about half the hot mixture into the beaten egg yolks. Then return all of the egg yolk mixture to the saucepan. Bing to a gentle boil, then reduce heat. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, Remove and discard vanilla bean or stir in liquid vanilla, if using. Cover surface with plastic wrap. Cool slightly or chill in the refrigerator till serving time. (Do not stir.)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Speed Racer Vacationing

Crazy! Hhhmmm, fast paced and crazy. Going from working 6 days a week to packing on a Thursday evening, going to work Friday and leaving right after work for a 17 hour road trip to Anaheim California (DISNEYLAND) from Port Orchard, Washington and Being in Anaheim by Saturday evening was interesting but hard. We got trapped in this WestMark Resort Trial Deal where you pay 695.00 over a 7 month period and then schedule a vacation to see if this type of vacationing works for you. Well, the whole thing went like this: The salesman was NOT forth-coming about when you could schedule a vacation (he said immediately. . .you can't. You have to pay all of the 695.00 before you can schedule a vacation time), the points that you are alloted during this time is enough for 2 weeks (it's not. . .the points were good enough for 4 nights during the week and not including the weekend. That is "if" you can get scheduled in somewhere available), and nothing was said about a limited time to use the vacation points (you lose all 695.00 paid towards the trial vacation if you do not schedule the vacation during the 1-year period. Meaning, you have to first pay the 695.00 in the 1st 7 months and have 5 months left over to figure out where they can fit you in). The whole thing ended with us getting phone calls that our time period for scheduling had 1 week left and then we would be out of luck. We scheduled in San Francisco, CA because I have always wanted to see the city, waterfront, food, and trollies AND because this is about the only place available. The down side? We could only schedule during the week. We decided to make the trip our first car trip and drive over the weekend going to and coming back home the following weekend. THEN I got this brilliant idea that Ashley, my daughter, along with Larry and myself needed to see about Disneyland and if we could fit this in too. No problem! The trip only added almost 6 1/2 hours more driving instead of just going to San Francisco. I talked Larry into the extra driving by promising to drive over half way. I kept my promise =). We squeezed Disneyland into 1 and 3/4 days. We got pictures out of it and lots of fun. The down side is that we were also exhausted. Since I am not home to cook and blog, I decided that I do want to blog about all the good and bad things, places, and ideas that went with this vacation. First, driving until we just couldn't drive any further on I-5, through Oregon Friday night was difficult BUT because we drove for 5 hours that night, we made driving on the next day so much easier. We thought we were going to stop in Vancouver, WA to stay the night (about 3 hours from home) but we ended up driving through Portland and continuing past for another hour down the freeway. The negative is that when the signs say there is an exit to go to this particular town to get fuel, food, or stay in a hotel. . .they mean TAKE THIS EXIT because there is not a second exit to that town. Most medium and smaller towns in Oregon and California were like this. Our first night was around 11:30 p.m. looking for the first hotel that we saw. A Super 8 and not a cheap one at that. Cost around 95.00 to be able to have a bed to sleep in. The restaurant next door was convenient for breakfast, TJ's I believe, but the service was very slow.

Back on I-5, we saw some amazing scenery. Lots of rolling hills, steep hill climbs viewing different mountain ranges, and some cactus. We do not have cactus where we live on the coast of Washington. We also saw Mount Ashton in California but i-5 is noted more for getting somewhere on a direct route rather then being able to site see. That's okay, I will continue to post pictures and and write the diary as I can fit the time in and we are in the middle of coming home right now down Highway 101. We are just before Eureka, CA and headed towards the coastline. That means today we get to see the huge redwoods of California while driving through their state parks. My biggest lesson that I learned so far is to take the time to schedule the road trip. Less expense and more enjoyment would have been the result.

Scheduling pitstops along the way would allow us the leeway of knowing where we were going to stop but NOT scheduling specific times to be anywhere, with the exception of hotels, would keep us from worrying about a time schedule. This is my very first roadtrip so I expected lots of little learning tips along the way.

Tallest man Vs Shortest man

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

jeni's ice cream

My family moved away from the place where I grew up after I graduated from high school. My best friend from home began visiting my family right away, and, almost as immediately, she came bearing sweet treat reminders from home.

First, there were heavenly and sinful gourmet brownies. Another trip brought soft, sugary cookies to our lips. Her presents were always unexpected and always devoured by my gracious family.

On her last trip to visit my family, over a year and a half ago, she showed up with the most surprising of packages. She carried in a large cardboard box, which we found to be full of dry ice. Quite intrigued, we waited eagerly as she unpacked her latest gift. What she'd brought was something new to us, an addition to our hometown in the years after we left.

Out came six pints of jeni's ice cream. It was some of the most unique and enchanting ice cream and sorbet we'd ever tasted, with flavors such as Salty Caramel, Thai Chili, Maker's Mark Buttered Pecan, and Riesling Poached Pear Sorbet, which even had the slight gritty texture of a perfect pear. After a round of taste-testing, the five of us were unable to determine one clear winner, but one thing was clear- this treat had bested all those that came before.

image from here

jeni's ice cream is located in Columbus, Ohio and uses fresh, local ingredients in their recipes. They have Signature Flavors that are always on the menu, as well as a rotating list of Seasonal Flavors. While I can't say I have one favorite flavor, I can say, in my experience, it is pretty hard to go wrong. Take a few moments to drool over their current flavor selection

I have craved this ice cream ever since my first taste, and, luckily, I've been able to visit jeni's twice in the past year. On the last trip, my husband was able to join me, and he discovered why it's a must visit for me! If you can't make it to one of their stores, jeni's ships anywhere across the US. Every so often, I contemplate indulging in such a luxury...

jeni's ice cream is a delectable treat worth trying once, although, I imagine, it will only leave you wanting more.

image from here

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