Mocha Éclairs with Espresso Crème Anglaise

Mocha Éclairs with Espresso Cream Anglaise Sauce

Pierre Hermé’s chocolate éclairs were the August Daring Bakers’ challenge. The rules were to follow exactly the pâte à choux recipe and make at least one of the two chocolate components from the original recipe – rather the chocolate pastry cream for filling or chocolate glaze. As for the filling, I didn’t change it drastically. I just turned it into the mocha variation by infusing milk with French-roast coffee beans flavor. It was absolutely marvelous. I used a different recipe for the chocolate glaze (to be honest, I just recycled what had left from the previous challenge (it was about time :))

As for the pâte à choux… I was surprised to see that the recipe called for an exact number of eggs (5 – no more, no less…). Usually there’s a ratio given and a baker is advised to use the eggs judgmentally. The dough consistency is of particular importance here – thick but pliable, and not at all runny. I tried to be a rules follower – I broke all 5 eggs in a measuring cup, lightly whisked them and added them to the dough gradually. I ended up with a leftover about one egg-worth. With all my due respect to the maestro, the stated baking time, as well as the oven temperature, were not sufficient for successful baking and needed some adjustments. I started at the higher temperature and even baked longer than was suggested. You can see my step-by step photos below. I posted the pictures of the just baked éclairs as well as completely cooled ones. I didn’t have any problems with deflating of the éclairs or their eggy taste.

I filled them using a Bismarck tip. It allows to pack the éclairs generously with the pastry cream and makes the eating less messy and therefore more pleasureful.

To summarize… sure the éclairs were fabulous. The filling was smooth and creamy, and very much coffee-chocolaty. My big thanks to Meeta and Tony, this month DB hosts, for choosing a wonderful dessert appreciated by everyone.

Adapted from “Chocolate Desserts” by Pierre Hermé

Mocha Éclairs with Espresso Cream Anglaise Sauce Inside

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Twisted Cookies from the Val d’Aosta (Torcettini di Saint Vincent)

Twisted Cookies from the Val d’Aosta (Torcettini di Saint Vincent)

These yeast-risen cookies are a cross between a bread stick and a caramelized puff pastry palmier. The cookies are crunchy – you can easily tell this by their look. But they are not that hard so deciduous wiggly teeth of your precious little ones (and mine too :) couldn’t manage. These torcettini are not tiny, each about 3 inches long; but how naïve I was assuming that two cookies per kid would be enough (we were taking them to a play date into a large group of youngsters). The cookies were in such demand, every kid wanted the third, and fourth… so there was not enough to satisfy everyone’s appetite.

The recipe is from Nick Malgieri’s “A Baker’s Tour”. And if the kids opinion doesn’t always count (let’s be honest :), the one of the Queen of Italy, I believe, does. Queen Margherita liked the cookies in one pastry shop so much that she knighted the owner on the spot. A certificate attesting to this still hangs in the pastry shop in Saint Vincent.

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Frozen Watermelon-Lime Bars

Frozen Watermelon-Lime Bars

I bought “the hugest” (my little son’s description :) watermelon a couple of days ago. Since there are only two watermelon-eaters in our home, everyone got quite a share; but we still couldn’t finish it. Sometimes, when you eat too much of your favorite thing you can suddenly (and never gradually) reach to the point when even a thought about what you were eating a moment before with an impressive appetite, becomes unpleasantly disturbing. That was the case. The leftover of this watermelon was sitting in the fridge, occupying always valuable space. I was too weak to get rid of it (I hate throwing perfectly good food away). Instead, I started thinking about transforming it into something else. This August’s “Gourmet” I got in the mail had just what I might had needed. Usually, I’m quite skeptical about the idea of utilizing condensed milk as a main ingredient in the dessert. But here it was used only in one layer, and was diluted with a very generous amount of lime juice, so, I gave it a try. It wasn’t bad, really. And I LOVED the watermelon sorbet.

A bit of tequila prevents the sorbet from freezing too hard, and adds a nice touch. The dessert cuts nicely and looks pretty on a plate; but it’s a very good idea to chill the plates before serving. This way the guests get a chance to enjoy eating the dessert with a fork rather than drinking it or licking from the plate.

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Capezzana Olive Oil and Orange Cakes

Capezzana Olive Oil and Orange Cakes

I found this recipe in Nancy Silverton’s book who got it from the famous Italian olive oil production company – “Capezzana’s”. Apparently, it was old and cherished family recipe. The recipe calls for a lot of extra-virgin olive oil, and I mean – A LOT. But the only thing Nancy – I’m quoting her – “dared to change” was the size of the pan she used, or, to be correct – the pans, since she baked the cake batter in small tartlet pans instead of two 9” round pans. Nancy loved the crust and wanted to increase the crust to crumb ratio. Well, if she didn’t dare to change anything, I thought I probably shouldn’t do it either; and with a sigh measured out 1½ cups of very good organic Italian extra-virgin olive oil (sigh… not cheap). I dared, though, to add the salt, a whole teaspoon; it seemed like a necessary ingredient (maybe it was supposed to be mentioned there but somehow it got lost during the publishing process of the book :) The little cakes turned out nice. I understand now Nancy’s affection to the crust – it’s crackly, and sugary and, wonderful; inside, on the other hand, is very tender. If the cakes are made in advance the crust can lose some of its lovely crispiness (humidity is a significant contributing factor to this); simply place the cakes back to the 350F oven for about 10 minutes to return the crust its once lost great quality.

Adapted from the “Pastries from the La Brea Bakery”

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Lemon-Basil Sherbet

Lemon-Basil Sherbet

There’s another frozen and basil-containing treat. But the basil here is not dominant and very pronounced; it’s more of a subtle and intriguing accent. The sherbet is tangy, refreshing and light. And it’s so effortlessly put together. For an appealing presentation the sherbet can be served in the juiced hollowed lemons (reserve the juice for making the sherbet and keep the leftover juice (if any) for other use.

I’m thinking this sherbet would be nice layered with espresso granita in a glass… I’ll try it next time. There’s nothing left to experiment with now.

Just slightly adapted from Alice Medrich’s “Pure Dessert”.

This is my entry for this month’s CLICK event (Citrus).

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Grilled Peaches with Basil Ice Cream and Pine Nut Crocante

Grilled Peaches with Basil Ice Cream and Pine Nut Crocante

I loved everything about this ice cream – the flavor, texture, and the color. I so wanted it to be green (without addition of any food colorings which I avoid whenever possible) that for a moment I thought if I was too hard on the basil. Turned out I had worried for nothing – the basil flavor was delicate enough and not overwhelming. The ice cream was lovely served on top of the grilled peaches brushed with Muscovado sugar and melted butter mixture before grilling and drizzled with good quality balsamic right after. The pine nut brittle was just the right accompaniment. The only thing I regret I didn’t make a double batch of the ice cream, it disappeared so fast…

Basil Ice Cream

I’m submitting this recipe to Ammalu’s Kitchen as an entry for Herb Mania – Basil.

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