Posts tagged ‘pomegranate’

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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June 19, 2011

Food For Thought

Where there would normally be an abundance of sugar, flour, butter and maybe the occasional frozen pizza, lately, I’ve been finding some less-likely foods. Goodies such as avocados, tuna salad, pomegranate juice, and mixed nuts have been gracing the shelves of my refrigerator and pantry most recently. When I inquired about the sudden additions to our snack collection, Evan, who has been avidly preparing for his GMAT exam, shared with me an article he’d read. The article described how to improve brain function and memory by means of consuming foods rich in Omega-3 fats, antioxidants and fiber. It also listed the top 20 foods to “supercharge your brain.” I was intrigued. And after reading through the list of “brain foods,” I was inspired.

I set out to create a dessert recipe using at least ten of the twenty foods as ingredients.  There were the obvious choices, like nuts (#4), coffee (#6), oats (#7), chocolate (yes! # 12), and cocoa nibs (#20).  And there were the more challenging choices, like avocados (#1),  seeds (#5), pomegranate (#9), and olive oil (#14).  After recipe hunting, tweaking, taste-testing and a bit of improvisation, I came up with today’s recipe.  It includes all of the brain-fueling ingredients listed above, as well as the #2 ingredient, blueberries.  That’s 10 of the “20 Best Foods For Your Brain,” with 7 ingredients coming from the top 10.  The result?  A heavenly combination of velvety smooth chocolate cascading over crisp, fresh blueberries, tart pomegranate jam, and a crispy-crumbly crust… a decadent pie to spark both the appetite and the brain.

Choco-Pom-Berry
“Brainpower Pie”

Inspired by: “The 20 Smartest Foods On Earth”

Adapted from Renee Mahon & S. Duquet’s
Dark Chocolate, Avocado & Berry Pie

This recipe is gluten free, 100% vegan and should be enjoyed by all!  The avocado is used in place of butter or margarine as the main source of fat in the chocolate filling and makes for a delicious, almost pudding-like texture (and tastes nothing like guacamole, I promise!).

1/3 cup almond milk

2 tablespoons orange juice

1½ tablespoons vanilla extract

1 tablespoon instant coffee granules

0at, nut & seed crust (recipe below)

½ cup pomegranate jam (recipe below)

1 pint fresh blueberries

2 ripe avocados

12 oz. semisweet chocolate (vegan)

–recipe yield: one 8- or 9-inch pie
(about 8-10 servings)

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together milk, orange juice and vanilla extract and place over medium heat.  Once liquid has come to a delicate simmer, remove from heat and whisk in coffee granules.  Set aside and allow mixture to steep.  While liquid is steeping, spoon pomegranate jam into prepared crust and spread into a thin, even layer to coat entire surface.  Sprinkle blueberries over top of the jam layer and arrange them to cover the jam entirely.

Core and slice avocados into a food processor.  Strain the warm, steeped liquid into the food processor as well, discarding any whole coffee granules that may remain.  Puree the mixture until desired consistency is reached.  Transfer the smooth avocado mixture back into the saucepan and place over medium heat.  Constantly stirring, heat mixture for 3-5 minutes.  Remove from heat and pour in chocolate chips.  Stir to completely melt the chocolate until the mixture is completely homogeneous.  Pour the entire mixture into the pan over top of the blueberries.  Using an angled spatula, smooth out the chocolate mixture into a flat, even layer.  Transfer to refrigerator (or freezer) to chill overnight until set.  Serve cold.

Pomegranate Jam

Adapted from “Pomegranate Jelly,”
Taste Of Home

1½ cups pomegranate juice

¼ cup water

2 cups sugar

2½ tablespoons pure fruit pectin

–recipe yield: about 2 cups jam

Pour juice and water into a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and allow liquid to simmer for about 10 minutes.  Measure out sugar in a separate container and set aside.  Add pectin into juice, whisking until dissolved.  Bring liquid to a full, rolling boil.  At this point, quickly dump in the sugar while constantly whisking.  Return to a rolling boil and allow to boil for exactly 1 minute, stirring.  Remove from heat and skim off any foam on the top of mixture.  Pour into jars/containers and allow to sit at room temperature overnight.  Store, covered, in refrigerator or freezer.

Oat, Nut & Seed Pie Crust

Adapted from “Vegan Oat-Nut Pie Crust,”  SmarterFitter and The Whole Food Bible

½ cup walnuts                                    ¾ cup almond flour                        ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup rolled oats                                 ¼ cup flax meal                              3 tablespoons maple syrup

3 tablespoons cocoa nibs                   ¼ teaspoon salt                             1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Spread walnuts out onto a sheet tray and toast them in a 350 degree oven for 8-9 minutes, tossing them halfway through baking time.  Remove them from oven, allow to cool, and increase oven temperature to 375 degrees.  Prepare a 8- or 9-inch springform pan by well-oiling the bottom of the pan and halfway up the sides.  Set aside.

In a food processor, pulse together walnuts, oats, and cocoa nibs until ground.  Add in almond flour, flax meal, and salt, and pulse to combine.  In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, syrup and vanilla.  Pour the liquid into the food processor and pulse to mix.  Remove mixture from food processor and press into pan in an even layer.  Bake crust for 10-12 minutes, or until edges are slightly crisp.  Set aside to cool.

-Optional
Pomegranate seeds or cocoa nibs may be used as a garnish.  To make swirl design, heat pomegranate jam and use a small paintbrush dipped in the jam to paint onto dish.