Sunday, August 31, 2008

Daring Baker's Act 2: Pierre Herme Eclairs

So this month's challenge was brought to us by 2 special bloggers...Meeta K from "What's for lunch Honey?" and Tony from ""

I have been blogging now for a little while, but before this I was heavily viewing tons of food blogs and a lot of them shared a common thread.
The infamous Pierre Herme!
I had stumbled across his name the first time when I hit Helen's from "Tartelette" blog. She had raved about his creativity and refined French pastries.
So you could only imagine my excitement when lovely Meeta picked these amazing éclairs.

Éclairs are close to my heart, and not because they pass by on the way to my stomach ;)

No, éclairs have a very specific memory for me. My wonderful Nan, who has now gone on to bigger and better things could never resist a chocolate éclair. The funny thing was she had Diabetes type 2...ok, ok, a lot of you are like WHAT!! there is no way that woman should have been eating things like that, that's not funny... but it was when you saw the 2 ends of her mouth curl up in this mischievous smile like she was about to have world domination and nobody knew except her.
My Bampy (grandfather), who is with my Nan along for the ride...used to go to this Italian store, where they specialized in tantalizing desserts and always came home with a custard horn for me and my sister, a rum baba or something equally decadent for himself and of course the prized chocolate eclair for my Nan.

I wanted to share this small memory with all of you or how ever many there are of you reading this, because I think one important thing about food whether sweet or savory is the memories you have or the moments you share and treasure around food.

So I dedicate this post to my Nanny and Bampy who were always there for me, only wanted happiness for me and never let me give up on my hopes and dreams..
For you Nan! cause now wherever you are I hope there is huge table of all you can eat chocolate eclairs, cause you deserve it...and don't forget to share with Bamps!

Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs:
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

Assembling the éclairs:

• Chocolate pastry cream (see below for recipe)

1) Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside the bottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.

2) The glaze should be barely warm to the touch (between 95 – 104 degrees F or 35 – 40 degrees C, as measured on an instant read thermometer). Spread the glaze over the tops of the éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the bottoms with the pastry cream.

3) Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottoms with enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry cream and wriggle gently to settle them.


1) If you have chilled your chocolate glaze, reheat by placing it in a bowl over simmering water,stirring it gently with a wooden spoon. Do not stir too vigorously as you do not want to create bubbles.

2) The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.

Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough:
from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• ½ cup (125g) whole milk
• ½ cup (125g) water
• 1 stick (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
• ¼ teaspoon sugar
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
• 5 large eggs, at room temperature

1) In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the boil.

2) Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very quickly.

**Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough will be very soft and smooth.**

3) Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your handmixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough.

**You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time you have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.**

4) The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.

5) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

Divide the oven into thirds by positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with waxed or parchment paper.

6) Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough.Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 41/2 inches (about 11 cm) chubby fingers. Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff. The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.

7) Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip the handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking time should be approximately 20 minutes.

The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.


1) Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately.

2) You can pipe the dough and the freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.

Chocolate Pastry Cream:
from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé

• 2 cups (500g) whole milk
• 4 large egg yolks
• 6 tbsp (75g) sugar
• 3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
• 7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Velrhona Guanaja, melted
• 2½ tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1) In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy‐bottomed saucepan.

2) Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture. Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.

3) Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat).Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.

4) Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth.5) Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.


1) The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

2) In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.

3) Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

I ran across this interesting list from Tim at "very good taste", I cut and pasted (sp?) it from his blog and thought I would highlight everything I have eaten off this list.
Let's see how I measure up....

From Tim at

The Omnivore’s Hundred

Here’s what you to do:
1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.

2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.

3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.

4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at linking to your results.

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:
1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare

5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes

19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut

50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky

84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Just "Peachy"

It may seem surprising for Ontario but there is an abundance of beautiful fresh fruit available in the summer time.

The Niagara region of Ontario is famous for wine and stone fruit. Cherries, apricots, nectarines and my favourite peaches! So when the markets start to carry them I always make sure to pick some up.
To me when you can buy local you SHOULD! and peaches are the epitomy of local farm fresh food I love.

My oven as most of you know is STILL broken so I resort yet again to my grill...ummm can anyone say Bobby Flay?
I saw him make peach crumble on the BBQ the other day and so of course I had to try.
The recipe SO simple!

The whole process takes 30 minutes from start to finish and you have a wonderful dessert with TONS of summer flavour.

Peach Crumble:
Adapted from Bobby Flay's Boy meets Grill

8 freestone peaches, halved and stones removed
Handful of granola (not instant)
Handful of brown sugar
1/4 cup of butter melted
Cinnamon, to taste

* now you can add flour if you want. I made the recipe as is and I think the next time I will add flour to my crumble mixture but it's totally up to you.*

Turn your BBQ/grill up to high and place peahes on till they have nice grill marks about 4 minutes, turn and grill for another 4 minutes.

Remove from grill.

Slice peaches and place either in a large ovenproof dish or in individual dishes.

Mix granola, brown sugar, cinnamon and melted butter together. (at this point I would add the optional flour and make a crumble)

Place on top of the peaches.

Place dish on to cookie sheet and put directly on BBQ, set the temp on medium or whatever will give you close to 350 -400 degrees shut the lid and leave for about 15 - 20 minutes or until crumble is brown.

*You can lower the temp if it starts to turn brown to quickly*

The recipe calls for caramel sauce and ice cream, I vanilla frozen yogurt and made a quick caramel sauce using:

Quick caramel sauce:
handful of brown sugar
couple tbsp of unsalted butter
1/4 c. heavy cream

Place brown sugar and butter in small pot and melt.

Once bubbling turn down heat, add cream and stir till incorporated

That's it!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Summer Eats - Spinach, Mushroom and Ricotta Lasgna

So we just got back from the cottage yesterday (it was a long weekend in Ontario). So knowing that I didn't have any groceries in the house, I gave my boys the option of whatever they wanted for dinner.

It was a an easy pick for my little one...LASAGNA!!!

My main man piped in with a "mmm... can we have spinach and ricotta???"

Well obviously I can't dissapoint so lasgna it was.

We don't eat vegetarian all the time but with a meal like this , a dish packed full of veggies is the only way to go.

I list spinach and mushroom, but obviously you can choose whatever veg you want.

Oh I almost forgot one thing. I still have NO!!!!!! oven (my main man is clinking away at it as we speak) so this pasta dish is done on the BBQ!

Spinach, Mushroom and Ricotta Lasagna:

1 large can crushed tomatoes
1 small can of tomato paste
2 500ml tubs of creamy ricotta cheese (I used one full fat and one low fat)
1 small tube of herbed chevre cheese, crumbled
12 - 15 mushrooms or so you have about 2 cups , sliced
2 bags of baby spinach
1 box of oven ready lasagna sheets
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp of balsamic vinager
1 sprig of fresh thyme
salt and pepper
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Mix crushed tomatos and tomato paste together in a bowl with some salt and pepper, set aside
Mix ricotta together with chevre, add some salt and pepper to taste

Heat large pan on medium heat with a tbsp of olive oil and add garlic and thyme.
Add mushrooms and saute for 2 - 3mins.
Add a tbsp of balsamic vinager and saute for an additional 2 mins, set aside

Heat a large pan on high heat and add olive oil and garlic.
Add spinach and add some salt and pepper.
Add a tsp of water and clamp a lid on the pan for about 3 mins, till just wilted.
Set aside.

Take tomato sauce and heat itup in the microwave for about 2 mins till just a bit warm.

In a 13 x 9 inch pan , spread some tomato sauce on the bottom of the pan. Line with pasta sheets. Spread more tomato sauce, cheese mixture, some mushrooms and spinach.

Top with some more tomato sauce. Repeat process until everything is gone.

MAKE SURE you end up with sauce on the top or a mixture of the cheese and sauce.

Sprinkle some parmesan on top.

Cover the top with foil and place on the BBQ.

Use indirect heat at about 375 degrees for 45 - 50 minutes

My broiler still works so I browned the top (without foil) for about 5 - 7 minute.

Let sit for 10 minutes and then