Archive for ‘pastries’

August 3, 2011

Éclairs With A Flair

I’m very pleased to share with you the news of my recent enrollment in a 6-month pastry program at a French culinary school here in the DC area.  Classes started just a couple weeks ago and I’ve already learned so much about the technique and art of pastry… I couldn’t be more thrilled with my personal and career decisions that have led me to culinary school and the exploration of the wonderful world of pastry!

My favorite of all of the lectures, demonstrations, and lessons thus far has been that of a simple and delicious pastry cream.  Pastry cream has been a staple for my desserts for quite a while now, but, as I’ve enhanced my understanding and adapted my techniques, my entire idea of pastry cream has completely changed.  My new go-to recipe is about ten times more simple than my old version, and the finished product is a billion times more delectable.  I’ve edited the recipe on my instructional pastry cream page (found on the upper tab above) and have been itching to include it in a Pumpercake recipe.
I decided to incorporate another of the “basics” I’ve learned so far in class into today’s recipe, “Choux paste,” which is the dough base for cream puffs, éclairs, and other pastries.   The appeal of the choux is that it can be piped into just about any shape (swans, anyone?) and, once baked, it acts as a bit of a blank canvas as it is beautifully hollow and can be filled with a delicious custard, curd, or cream.

On a mission to make a super summer version of the ever-traditional éclair, I chose to fold some citrus-y sweet fruit curds into the vanilla pastry cream and used brightly colored white chocolate glazes to coat the tops of them.  An explosion of strawberry-pomegranate and orange-grapefruit flavors burst from a buttery crisp envelope of delicate choux, which is then topped off with a bright and sweet chocolate glaze to dress up the pretty little pastries.  These tiny sweet treats are decadent enough to feel indulgent, yet light enough to allow for continuous enjoyment of 2 or 3 of them.  In fact, I’ve found that making the éclairs extra-tiny can really help to rationalize eating at least 4 per sitting…

Sweet Summertime Éclairs

-In flavors of Strawberry-Pomegranate and Orange-Grapefruit

Inspired by: Éclairs

Choux Paste (Éclair Base)

100 grams unsalted butter
(about 7¼ tablespoons)

½ cup milk

½ cup water

150 grams all-purpose flour
(about 1 cup & 2 tablespoons)

½ teaspoon salt

3-4 large eggs,
plus 1 for egg wash

–recipe yield:
about 50 4-inch éclairs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat, melt butter.  Add milk and water, increase heat to medium, and bring mixture to a full boil.  Remove immediately from heat and add combined flour and salt at once.  Stir together with a wooden spoon into a panade (thick, almost paste-like mixture).  Replace saucepan onto warm burner to evaporate some of the water and dry out the panade slightly, allowing easier incorporation of the eggs.  When panade can “flake” easily while breaking with a wooden spoon, transfer the mixture to a bowl.  Using a paddle attachment of an electric mixer on a low speed, turn and loosen the dough, allowing it to cool slightly until it reaches the point where you can touch the bottom of the bowl comfortably.  Mix in 2 eggs until absorbed, then add the 3rd egg, mixing until it has also been absorbed.  Beat the 4th egg in a separate dish and add gradually, as the entire egg may not be needed.  The choux paste is finished when it can be pulled up by the paddle attachment into a distinct point that easily folds when flipped (like a soft peak).

Transfer choux paste into a pastry bag fitted with a large, plain round tip.  Pipe paste into desired size éclair rectangles.  Coat each mound with a small amount of egg wash (1 egg, beaten) using a pastry brush, and tap the tops surface of each brushed éclair with the back of a fork that’s been dampened with water.  The egg wash helps the pastry to achieve a golden brown color, while the fork marks create expanding ridges, much like ribbing in clothing.  Bake until puffed, golden, and firm (about 20-25 minutes).

Strawberry Pomegranate Curd

½ cup strawberry pulp, strained

¼-1/3 cup pomegranate juice

1 tablespoon lemon juice

¼ cup granulated sugar

½ tablespoon cornstarch

1 egg, plus 2 yolks

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

¼ teaspoon salt

Place strawberry pulp and ¼ cup pomegranate juice in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat and bring to simmer.  Allow liquid to reduce by about half (4-5 minutes) before removing the syrup from heat and stirring in lemon juice and an extra splash of pomegranate juice.  While syrup cools, whisk together sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl.  Whisk in egg and yolks until combined.  While continuing to whisk, gradually drizzle in the cooled syrup until it has all been added, and the sugar has dissolved and is no longer grainy.  Transfer mixture back into saucepan and place over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.  After 6-8 minutes, when the curd has thickened greatly, remove from heat and push through a fine mesh sieve into a small bowl.  While stirring, gradually add in small pieces of the butter until it has all been dissolved into the curd.  Mix in salt, and continue to stir until curd has cooled.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, allowing the plastic wrap to sag into the bowl and cover the entire surface of the curd so that it doesn’t develop a skin.  Store cooled, covered curd in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Orange Grapefruit Curd

½ cup orange juice

¼ cup grapefruit juice

zest of 2 oranges & ¼ grapefruit

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1½ teaspoons orange extract

1/3 cup granulated sugar

½ tablespoon cornstarch

1 egg, plus 2 yolks

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

¼ teaspoon salt

Place fruit juices in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat and bring to simmer.  Allow liquid to reduce by about half (5-6 minutes) before removing the syrup from heat and stirring in zest, lemon juice and orange extract.  While syrup cools, whisk together sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl.  Whisk in egg and yolks until combined.  While continuing to whisk, gradually drizzle in the cooled syrup until it has all been added, and the sugar has dissolved and is no longer grainy.  Transfer mixture back into saucepan and place over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.  After 6-8 minutes, when the curd has thickened greatly, remove from heat and push through a fine mesh sieve into a small bowl.  While stirring, gradually add in small pieces of the butter until it has all been dissolved into the curd.  Mix in salt, and continue to stir until curd has cooled.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, allowing the plastic wrap to sag into the bowl and cover the entire surface of the curd so that it doesn’t develop a skin.  Store cooled, covered curd in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Additional Ingredients & Preparation:

A full batch of pastry cream should be prepared, and divided into two equal parts to be folded into the two fruit curds.  Pastry cream is the standard filling for éclairs, so one may choose to omit the curd portion of the recipe and fill the éclairs with only the vanilla cream.  Fruit curd-pastry creams should be stored the same as a regular pastry cream, refrigerated and covered tightly with a layer of plastic wrap draped onto the surface of the mixture.

A full batch of chocolate glaze should be prepared using white chocolate in the place of semisweet.  The prepared glaze can be divided in half and colored with pink rose and orange gel food colorings, if desired.

Assembly:

Transfer fruit curd pastry creams into pastry or zip-top bags fitted with small round tips.  Using a sharp paring knife, create two tiny slits on each end of the underside of each cooled éclair.  Place the tip of one of the bags of curd-cream into one slit, squeeze until slightly plumped, and then into the other slit, squeezing again.  This will help the éclairs to be filled evenly and prevent tearing or bursting.  Repeat this process with all the éclairs, filling half of them with strawberry pomegranate filling and half with orange grapefruit filling.

Dip the tops of each filled  éclair into the coordinating cooled chocolate glaze, and set aside at room temperature or in the refrigerator to allow the chocolate glaze to set.  Éclairs should be served immediately to prevent sogginess, however, leftovers may be stored in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator.

July 13, 2011

Pumper Pasties

“He had never had any money for candy with the Dursleys, and now that he had pockets rattling with gold and silver he was ready to buy as many Mars Bars as he could carry — but the woman didn’t have Mars Bars. What she did have were Bettie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, Drooble’s Best Blowing Gum, Chocolate Frogs. Pumpkin Pasties, Cauldron Cakes, Licorice Wands, and a number of other strange things Harry had never seen in his life. Not wanting to miss anything, he got some of everything and paid the woman eleven silver Sickles and seven bronze Knuts.

Ron stared as Harry brought it all back in to the compartment and tipped it onto an empty seat.

“Hungry, are you?”

“Starving,” said Harry, taking a large bite out of a pumpkin pasty.”

-Aboard the Hogwarts Express in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Pumpkin pasties are a mutual favorite treat shared by Harry and many of his friends throughout the series. Ron, Hermione, Neville, Luna, and Ginny have all been known to snack on pasties once in a while. Here in the muggle world, Potter fans seem equally as fond of the handheld sweets, for when I started researching pumpkin pasty recipe ideas, I was overwhelmed with the amount of feedback I received. The only issue was, it seemed every reader had interpreted Pumpkin Pasties in a very similar way, as there were minimal variations in recipes. It was always a sweet, flaky pie-pocket filled with the same pumpkin pie filling.

While I’m sure these versions are delicious, I decided to go a different route.  I thought it might be interesting to do more of a Pumpkin Pastry, but still find a way to make it whimsical and fun.  In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, there’s a time during holiday when Harry and Ron sat by the fire for hours on end, “eating anything they could spear on a toasting fork — bread, English muffins, [and] marshmallows. ” Naturally, I loved the idea of the two friends snacking on my favorite sweet, and I decided to incorporate the mallows. With that, the Pumpkin-Marshmallow Napoleon was born… although I think I’ve come up with a much better name for them:

Pumper “Pumpkin Pasty” Pastries

Inspired by: The Hogwarts Express Food Trolley’s “Pumpkin Pasties”

Adapted from Phyllo and Pumpkin Marshmallow Napoleons,” Baking Obsession

Caramel-Glaze Spiced Pastry Rounds

2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed

¼ cup granulated sugar

3 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

¾ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon all spice

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon vanilla bean paste

–recipe yield:  about 24-30 disks,
about 8-10 assembled napoleons

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
On a lightly floured surface, unfold one sheet of thawed puff pastry.  Using a floured rolling pin, gently smooth out creases from folds and roll out puff pastry sheet to about 1/4 – 1/8-inch thickness.  Using a 2-3 -inch cookie cutter or a round glass, cut pastry into about 12-15 disks and place onto parchment-lined baking sheet.  Using a fork, prick a few holes into each disk.  Transfer to the refrigerator to chill for about 5 minutes.

In a saucepan over medium heat, dissolve granulated sugar in ¼ cup water, bring to a boil, and turn off heat.  Stir in brown sugar, butter, salt, spices, and vanilla, continuing to stir until butter has melted and the mixture has formed a warm glaze.  Use a pastry brush to paint a small amount of glaze onto one side of each chilled pastry disk, placing the painted disks back onto the lined baking sheet.  Cover the disks with another layer of parchment paper, and place another baking sheet directly on top of the paper to weigh down the disks as they bake.  Bake disks for 10 minutes before removing from oven and flipping.  Paint the glaze onto the opposite side of each half-baked pastry round, replace parchment paper covering and additional baking sheet cover, and then transfer back into the oven for an additional 10 minutes.  Repeat all instructions for the second sheet of puff pastry.  Allow rounds to cool completely on wire racks before assembling napoleons.  Pastry disks can be prepared ahead of time and stored in an airtight container.

Pumpkin-Marshmallow Filling

¼ cup cooked, pureed pumpkin

½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ all spice

pinch ground ginger

1½ envelopes unflavored gelatin

½ cup cold water, divided

¾ cup granulated sugar

½ cup light corn syrup

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon vanilla bean paste

In a small bowl, stir together the pumpkin and spices until combined.  Set aside.  In a large glass mixing bowl, sprinkle gelatin into ¼ cup of cold water and let sit.  Have an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment standing by.

In a small saucepan, combine the remaining ¼ cup water, sugar, corn syrup, and salt.  Cover saucepan and place over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes before removing lid and attaching a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature of the syrup.  Let the syrup cook until it reaches 240 degrees (about 5-6 minutes), and then immediately remove it from heat.  With the mixer on a low speed, slowly pour the hot syrup into the gelatin mixture, allowing it to pour down the side of the bowl into the gelatin.  Once all the syrup has been added, increase the mixer speed to high and continue to whip the mixture until cools to lukewarm and becomes extremely thick, or about 12-15 minutes.  The vanilla bean paste can be added during the last minute of whipping.

Once the marshmallow mixture has been fully whipped, use a spatula to fold about ½ cup of the mallow into the pumpkin-spice mixture.  Then, pour the lightened pumpkin to the mixing bowl and fold it gently but thoroughly into the marshmallow.  Transfer the combined mixture into a pastry or zip-top bag fitted with a small, plain round pastry tip.

Assembly

Pipe 5-6 small dollops of pumpkin-marshmallow filling onto the surface of each pastry round.  Set aside 1/3 of the mallow-dolloped  pastry rounds.  Use a water-moistened finger to lightly flatten the tops of each of the dollops on the remaining 2/3 of the pastry rounds.  Let all pastry disks sit out, uncovered, for about an hour to allow the mallow filling to set.  Stack up two disks with flattened dollops and top with an un-flatted dolloped disk to complete each napoleon.  Serve, or store covered in an airtight container at room temperature.