Posts tagged ‘pastry cream’

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.

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July 10, 2011

Harry Potter and the Incredible Crumble

This week is Potter Week at Pumpercake!  Harry Potter inspired recipes will be published all week as we count down the days before the final movie is released into theaters!

Some of Harry’s happiest memories are those he has of time spent with his beloved Godfather, Sirius Black.  Sirius and Harry had a couple very memorable conversations during the tail-end of a meeting with the Order of the Phoenix, some of which took place during dinner.  Mrs. Weasley served up an extravagant feast for this particular occasion, and ended the meal with an impressive “rhubarb crumble and custard” that Harry thoroughly enjoyed.  This is my version of Harry’s favorite chef’s dessert.

I went with crimson-cherry rhubarb, twice baked, infused with orange flavors and a hint of cardamom.  I knew I needed to incorporate some sort of Sherbet Lemon element in one of the recipes for Potter Week.  Sherbet Lemon, of course, being “a kind of Muggle sweet” that Albus Dumbledore is “rather fond of.” The custard that Mrs. Weasley serves alongside her crumble was the perfect opportunity for me to include Albus’s favorite flavors.

“Three helpings of rhubarb crumble and custard later and the waistband on Harry’s jeans was feeling uncomfortably tight (which was saying something, as the jeans had once been Dudley’s).”
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Rhubarb Crumble
with
“Sherbet Lemon”
Custard Sauce

Inspired by: Molly Weasley’s
“Rhubarb Crumble & Custard,” and Professor Dumbledore’s favorite
“Sherbet Lemon”

Adapted from Dinah Bucholz’s
“Rhubarb Crumble with Custard Sauce,”
The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook

Rhubarb Crumble

1½ pound crimson red rhubarb

1/3 cup granulated sugar

½ teaspoon orange extract

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon cardamom

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons all purpose flour

zest from ½ an orange

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a sheet pan with foil.  Slice rhubarb into ½-inch pieces and toss together with granulated sugar, orange and vanilla extracts, cardamom, baking soda, and ¼ tablespoon of the cornstarch.  Spread rhubarb mixture onto lined sheet tray and bake for about 10 minutes to help soften and caramelize rhubarb.  Once removed from the oven, toss the mixture to cool it slightly.  Sift onto the rhubarb mixture the remaining cornstarch and the flour and mix, stirring in the orange zest as well.  Pour in an even layer into a 1-quart casserole dish and set aside while preparing crumble topping.

Crumble Topping

½ cup all-purpose flour              ½ teaspoon salt

¾ cup steel cut oats                  ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/3 cup almond flour                   6 tablespoons unsalted butter

¾ cup brown sugar

Mix together in a food processor all ingredients, except for the butter, until thoroughly combined.  Cut the cold butter into a small dice and add the pieces into the food processor with the dry crumble mixture.  Pulse until butter has incorporated and the texture of the mixture resembles clumpy, wet sand. Sprinkle the crumb mixture into the dish in an even layer on top of the rhubarb.  Place in 350 degree oven for 40-50 minutes or until rhubarb is bubbly and topping is golden.

“Sherbet Lemon” Custard Sauce

3 egg yolks

¼ cup granulated sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 cup whole milk

¼ cup heavy whipping cream

zest from 1 lemon

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

juice from ½ a lemon

1 tablespoon sherbet powder

–recipe yield: about 1¼ cups custard sauce

In a small bowl, lightly break up egg yolks with a fork, then set bowl aside.  In a heavy bottomed saucepan, combine sugar, salt, and cornstarch.  Whisk in milk, cream and lemon zest until cornstarch has dissolved.  Place over medium-high heat, constantly stirring, until thoroughly heated but not boiling.  Reduce heat to low and, while whisking the egg yolks, slowly pour into the small bowl a couple tablespoons of the hot liquid to bring eggs gently up to temperature without cooking them.  Once yolks have been heated, transfer the warm mixture into the saucepan and replace heat to medium-high.  Constantly stirring, continue to heat until mixture is thick and bubbling.  Remove from heat and pour mixture into a small bowl, allowing it to pass through a fine mesh sieve, discarding any solid pieces of egg.  Stir the vanilla and the lemon juice into the hot custard until incorporated.  Serve warm or chilled.  If not serving immediately, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, allowing the plastic to sag into the bowl and cover the entire surface of the custard sauce so the sauce doesn’t develop a skin.  Store covered custard sauce in refrigerator.

April 16, 2011

Hometown/New-Town Cherry Celebration

My parents came to DC  for a little visit last week, along with their adorable Japanese exchange student, Yuko, who I fell in love with.  Yuko is staying with my parents in Michigan for a year while she studies English at a nearby University.  When I heard that she’d be accompanying them on their visit, I was thrilled at the opportunity to be able to share with her some of the great beauty and history of America that’s showcased here in DC.  And what better time for a girl from Japan to visit DC than during the National Cherry Blossom Festival, the two-week long celebration of the blossoming of the cherry trees galore, a gift given by the Mayor of Tokyo to the city of Washington, DC years ago to honor the friendship between the United States and Japan? 

I wanted to bake something special in honor of the Cherry Blossom Festival, and while I was deeply inspired by the exquisite beauty of the cherry trees and their pretty pink blossoms, neither my parents nor Evan care much for cherries.  Now, if we were talking Michigan black cherries, it would be a whole different story.  Found only in Michigan, these dark black cherries are pleasantly sweet-tart and seem to be enjoyed by cherry-lovers and non-cherry-lovers alike.  The only way I knew I could get away with using cherries in a dessert is if I could get my hands on some of these home-grown favorites, which would be nearly impossible seeing as though it is 9+ hour drive from DC to Michigan, where the cherries probably aren’t even in season yet.  I had just about given up on the idea of a cherry dessert for my family, when I randomly stumbled upon a jar of Michigan Black Cherry preserves while shopping one day.  I was overjoyed at the endless possibilities this little jar had to offer, and even more overjoyed when I brought it home, opened it up, tasted, and confirmed that the contents were, in fact, the real deal.

In desserts, cherries are commonly paired with almond flavors.  I chose to challenge myself by making an almond genoise, my first ever attempt at a traditional genoise.  A genoise is a slightly sweet Italian sponge-like cake and is a staple in French pastry.  It uses zero chemical leavening,  only air whipped into the batter to give the cake volume.  It can also be piped into ladyfingers or molded into madelines.  As these cakes can be a little temperamental, I tried two different recipes, just barely altering either (as this was my first attempt), and chose the recipe that yielded the most favorable result.  That is the recipe I will share below.  In between the cake layers, I incorporated a layer of the delicious preserves and a layer of vanilla pastry cream, and topped the whole thing off with a whipped white chocolate and black cherry ganache (as I wouldn’t dare serve my mom any sort of dessert that didn’t include at least some chocolate) the same color as the rosy-pink blooms that grace the District.  The finished product turned out to be a yummy tribute to the city I now call home, paired with the comforting flavors from where I grew up.

Michigan Black Cherry-Blossom Festival Layer Cake

Inspired by: Michigan Black Cherries (and the DC Cherry Blossoms)

Almond Genoise

Barely adapted from Chef De Cuisine’s “Almond Genoise”

-note: this recipe can and should be cut in half and prepared in two batches, as it’s  much easier to incorporate air in the batter when there is less of it.

2/3 cup almond flour (or finely ground almonds)

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour

8 large egg whites

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons superfine sugar, separated

6 large egg yolks plus 2 whole eggs

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare three 9-inch round cake pans by lining the bottoms with parchment paper, and then buttering and flouring the bottoms and the sides.

Sift together in a medium bowl the cake flour and almond flour.  Set aside.  In a separate, medium bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar to form soft peaks.  Add the 2 tablespoons of sugar while beating.  Set aside.

Prepare a double boiler fitted with a large glass bowl.  Rigorously whisk together egg yolks, whole eggs and sugar in the large bowl over the simmering water.  Beat the mixture continuously until triple in volume, around 8-10 minutes.  Then, turn off the burner and remove bowl from heat.  Fold the egg whites into the egg-sugar mixture.  Slowly and in small batches, sift in the flours fold until incorporated, and then fold in the butter.

Distribute half the batter into one pan, and evenly divide the second half of the batter into each of the other two pans.  You should have one pan with half of the batter in it, and two pans, each with a quarter of the batter in them.  Place them into the preheated oven.  Use only the oven light when checking the cakes, as opening and closing the ovens will reduce the heat and keep the cakes from rising to their full, fluffy volume.  Remove the two pans with the least batter after about 15-20 minutes (or until lightly brown and springy to the touch), and remove the pan with the most batter about 5 or so minutes after.  Really keep an eye on these cakes while they bake so that they don’t overcook and dry out, as a genoise’ tends to be a somewhat dry cake anyway.  Keep the cakes in the pans on wire racks to cool until ready to assemble.

Whipped White Chocolate and Black Cherry Ganache

24 ounces white chocolate chips

1 1/4 cup heavy cream, divided

1/4-1/2 cup Michigan black cherry preserves, or any substitute

-optional: 3-4 drops of red food coloring*

-a mug of very hot water (for decorating)**

Prepare a double boiler fitted with a large glass bowl containing the white chocolate and 1 cup of the heavy cream.  Use a rubber spatula to keep the mixture moving as the chocolate melts.  When bowl is removed from heat and chocolate has melted, allow it to sit at room temperature to cool for a few minutes.  Then, cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.

After chocolate ganache has been chilled overnight, remove the bowl from the fridge.  Ganache should be slightly hardened.  Use a wooden spoon or even a knife to break it up a little in the bowl.  Add a couple tablespoons of the heavy cream and the desired amount of cherry preserves to the hardened ganache.  Using an electric mixer, whip the mixture until the chocolate ganache has broken apart by aid of the added liquid and the mixture is homogenous.  If needed or desired, add the remaining two tablespoons of the heavy cream, as well as any more preserves and the red food coloring.  Whip the mixture until soft peaks form, or until desired consistency is achieved.  Do not over-whip the mixtures, as the heavy cream can eventually turn into butter if whipped for too long.

Other Ingredients for Fillings:

1 cup of pastry cream

¾ cup Michigan Black Cherry preserves, or any substitute

Assembly:

First, I like to trim the three cake layers.  I use a cardboard circle or the top of a round Tupperware lid, place it in the center on the top of each cake, and use it as a guide to trim the edges off of the cake with a serrated knife.

Smear a dollop of pastry cream onto the middle of platter or cake plate to secure the cake to the center of the dish.  Place one of the two thinner cake layers upside-down onto the platter, making sure its centered.  Spoon the cherry preserves onto the cake and use an angled spatula to gently spread the preserves into an even layer that reaches all edges of the cake, without cascading down the sides of it.

Next, gently place the thickest layer of cake on top of the layer of preserves, lining it up with the bottom layer as best you can.  Pipe the pastry cream in a circle as close to the outer edge of the cake layer as possible, without allowing it to fall the the sides of the cake.  Spoon the rest of the pastry cream onto the center of the cake, using a spatula to spread the cream into an even layer across the  entire cake.  Place the remaining, thinner cake layer gently atop the pastry cream.

Slide a few strips of parchment paper under the cake, in between the bottom layer of cake  and the cake plate.  This will help to catch any drips without dirtying the plate.  Gently spoon some of the whipped cherry-chocolate ganache onto the assembled cake.  Use a spatula to spread an even layer of the ganache across the cake, covering both the tops and sides.  Smooth out the ganache, pull away and discard the strips of parchment paper from beneath the cake, and serve.

*The whipped ganache is beautiful without the food coloring and can easily be omitted.  In keeping with the theme of the Cherry Blossom Festival, the added color helped me achieve a pink that closely matched the blooms.

**A tip for getting the ganache super smooth after covering the cake:  Dip your metal, angled spatula into a mug of very hot water before spreading every few strokes.  The chocolate in the ganache will soften and smooth out into a pretty, shiny surface.