Sunday, January 23, 2011

eclairs with creme patisserie filling, topped with chocolate


About three people came up to me while I was making this (and one person called and asked me later) how eclairs become hollow. This confirms my suspicion that pate a choux is absolutely awesome. You don't hollow it out, you don't shape the dough. You just make the dough, plop it on the cookie sheet and bake it. When you pull it out of the oven, you have golden, crusty, hollow pastry shells ready for you to stuff with tasty wonderful cream and dip in melted chocolate.

This is an eclair that's been bitten into. This is also my roommate's thumb nail, which has Totoro on it.

Isn't that about sixteen different kinds of exciting?

The pate a choux is made on the stove. It's very egg-heavy; this is where most of the structure comes from. It's very easy to over cook and curdle the dough, so you have to be careful. Using a double boiler (a metal bowl suspended over a pot of simmering water--DO NOT let the bottom of the bowl touch the water) gives you a bit of extra insurance against this, but I just do it straight in a pot. It works well enough with this recipe and I don't lose batches very often.

There are three steps here: make the dough. Bake the dough. Fill the pastry and top with chocolate (okay, so maybe that last one's two). Here we go!

the pastry
from Catherine Atkinson's pastry cook
9 tbsp flour
pinch salt
1/4 cup butter
2/3 C water
2 eggs

Preheat 400 degrees. Measure our the flour into a cup and put it to the side. On the stove, set up your pot or your double boiler and melt the butter and water together. When they are melted, remove from the heat and dump in your flour. Stir, vigorously, until all is combined, and then return to low heat. Continue to stir vigourously for 1-2 minutes. Do NOT cook this too long. The dough will pull away a little from the sides; the best way I can describe it is that the edges will be rounder. It will stop sticking as strongly to the bottom of the pan. But don't worry too much about it; just stir for a minute and remove from the heat. You will be fine and so will your dough.

Take the dough off the heat. After it's cooled 2-3 minutes, add the eggs and beat until smooth and shiny, another couple minutes.


Put the dough on a greased cookie sheet in the size and shapes you like. The dough will stay mostly in the same form as you put it on the sheet. I like just a single spoonful, but the traditional eclair is longer and bigger than I make my little cream-puff-eclairs. (You get more if you make them smaller). Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden.

Some people slit the puffs open at this point and bake them at 200 degrees for 5 minutes, but I'm much too lazy. I imagine this is to dry them out a little more, but I find just the half hour at 400 does them fine.

the filling: creme patisserie
1/3 cups sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons corn starch
4 egg yolks
1 1/3 cups milk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla

Beat all but milk and vanilla in a medium bowl. Heat the milk in saucepan until it starts to steam, but not boil (there should be a few little bubbles beginning to form at the edges, but nothing more).


Spoon the milk a little at a time into the egg mixture, stirring briskly. Continue to spoon the milk in until you've added about half of it. We combine these two slowly to keep the hot milk from making scrambled eggs of our filling.

Pour the tempered (aka slowly heated) egg and milk mixture back to the rest of the milk in the saucepan. Bring the whole mixture to a boil and boil 1-2 minutes. Remove from the stove and mix in the vanilla. Let the mixture cool.

Spoon the mixture into a plastic bag and set aside.


construction; step by step
1. Melt 1/2 C chocolate and 2 tsp vegetable oil in a small bowl.
2. Cut one corner off the plastic bag of filling.
3. Pick up a pastry puff and stick your finger through one end to make a small hole.
4. Put the cut corner of the filling bag into the hole. Squeeze and fill the pastry until it is heavy and full of cream.
5. Dip the top of the eclair in the melted chocolate and put on a plate to set.


The last (and favorite) step: DEVOUR.

Monday, January 17, 2011

homemade Reese's butter cups: almond butter dark chocolate cups


I love making candy. There's just something about vast quantities of sugar and an attention to elegance and design I rarely get to indulge in. This isn't saying that my candies are always very pretty (more often enough they're not at all) but I like the idea that they get prettier as I go.

I found these first at a Girl Scout "Winterfest," which is several hundred adolescent girls and their troop leaders squashed into a large auditorium where they run activity booths and sell crafts. One troop specialized in plastic jars of homemade Reese's peanut butter cups and I would buy a jar each year and horde it until spring.

Turns out, however, they're fabulously easy to make; and they're fabulously easy to engineer to your own devices. These I filled with almond butter, to give friend the Snark a close-as-I-can-get taste of Reese's. (She's allergic to peanuts). I made about eighty and packaged them up for friends and family this holiday. But you can fill them with anything you want-- lemon curd, dried fruit, jam of any kind, caramel (homemade is best!), other types of chocolate; anything you want. Isn't that a lovely phrase?

Almond butter cups
about thirty cups

1 C dark chocolate
1 Tb vegetable oil

1/2 C almond butter
1/2 C sugar

You will also need mini-muffin pans and mini-muffin paper liners. You can use a normal sized muffin pan if you want big Reese's. (I have a friend who uses a pie tin.)

Line the muffin tins with the paper muffin cups.  Pour the sugar into a wide-mouthed bowl and place the almond butter next to it with a spoon or two.

Melt the dark chocolate in the microwave or over a double boiler and mix in the oil until smooth.

Spoon a little chocolate into the bottom of each muffin tin and spread evenly over the bottom and a little up the sides.

Next, drop a little almond butter into the sugar and roll small balls of almond butter coated in sugar. The almond butter is much runnier than peanut butter. The peanut butter will roll nicely into balls, but the almond butter will always be a little loose and malleable. That's okay--you're covering them with chocolate, remember? That cures all things.

1: Line each paper cup with a thin layer of chocolate. 2: Drop a sugar-rolled ball of almond butter (or filling of your choice) into center of each cup. 3: Dollop chocolate on top of each ball. 4: Shake tray (keeping it on the counter and horizontal) until the tops are smooth.

Drop each almond butter ball into the center of a chocolate-lined tin.

Spoon a dollop of chocolate over each almond butter ball. Don't worry if a little almond butter shows or the chocolate mounds up. We're about to fix that.

Shake the tin back and forth on the counter. This will settle the chocolate into a smooth top. Stash in the freezer for five minutes or until set enough to remove from the tray.


I packaged them in holiday cellophone bags and gave them out for gifts. Don't make them too far in advance, but they keep for at least a week.

Friday, January 7, 2011

pecan bourbon chocolate pie


Americans, how were your Thanksgivings?

The answer: a long time ago.

Holiday season and finals season hit simultaneously. I apologize for my once-a-week-if-you’re-lucky updates and hope you’ll forgive me if I throw a lot of tasty pies at you.

My Thanksgiving (as well as being a long time ago) was full of excellent company and my aunt’s divine cooking, supported by sous chefs in her two terribly tall sons and terribly tall husband. My family contributed five pies to the party, because I called up my grandmother, who normally buys the pies, and begged to take over that duty. I was in the middle of the school quarter and missed having flour in every crease of my hands.

So, the day before Thanksgiving, I drove five hours home and then baked five pies. Here is the first.


A friend brought this to a New Orleans themed potluck. It takes a pecan pie (already a star in my house) and raises it to new levels with the rich additions of chocolate and bourbon. Partway through my second slice (I would cap the night with four), I asked LC for the recipe and she kindly sent it. When brainstorming Thanksgiving pies, I knew I had to include this one.

I don't like the pictures much, but I loved this pie. I highly, highly recommend it, if you are any fan of butter, sugar, pecans, chocolate, or booze. I might even recommend it if you're not a fan of any of those things.
Adapted from LC’s recipe
1 1/3 C brown sugar
2 C corn syrup
8 Tb bourbon
6 eggs
2/3 C butter
2 C pecans
1 C chocolate chips

Beat all ingredients but pecans. When I added the bourbon, I got wobbly-kneed from the fumes. I wouldn't drive very soon after eating this... especially if you eat it in the quantities I like to...


Fold in the pecans, then pour into the pre-baked crust. Cut a strip of aluminum foil and wrap around the outer edge of the crust to keep it from burning. Bake at 375 for about 50 minutes.