Eggnog Cream Puffs


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

This is a little seasonal twist on the traditional pastries. The filling is eggnog-flavoured pastry cream, lightened with a bit of whipped cream. If you wish, you can dip the tops into caramel or chocolate glaze, but even plain and unadorned the cream puffs taste great. They are easy enough to be put together on a short notice if needed, but also can be made in advance (all the components) and only assembled the day you plan to serve them.

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Puff Pastry Strawberry Coconut Cookies

These are super easy and quickly-done (provided you’ve made the puff pastry in advance or bought it) cookies that go well with ice-cream and fruit salad.

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Baklava Fingers

Maybe not as fabulous as the real thing, not as overloaded with nuts and oversaturated with aromatic syrup, still, these are pretty good for what they are – little sweet treats made of some phyllo leftovers (there’s always something left unless the baklava itself was made). The fingers also keep better, stay crisp longer.

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Lemon Honey Panna Cotta with Lemon Fennel Puff Pastry Straws

Even the last scraps of home made puff pastry taste great and puff perfectly. Never ever dispose these precious leftovers, always put them to some use. The flavor of the real butter and the texture of the finished product is far superior compared to store-bought puff pastry.

I’m crazy about lemon-licorice combo. But the key is not to overdo the last component. If you wish, you can use anise seeds instead of fennel, but since the anise is more potent, reduce its amount accordingly. A little bit too much and you can end up with a cough syrup flavor.

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September Daring Bakers’ challenge is up. This time it’s classic puff pastry and vols-au-vent – flaky tartlets that can be filled with at least a thousand possible sweet or savory fillings. Only, I act as usual. First, being overwhelmed with different ideas, I decide to wait until my mind is made up. Then, I wait for the weather to become a bit cooler. And finally, when the weather is as hot as never, and the due date is tomorrow, I roll up my sleeves and get to work proceeding with the simplest solution.

I made one sweet and another savory vols-au-vent.

  • Sweet: peppery ricotta/mascarpone mousse with Bartlett pears, sautéed in butter, honey, and vanilla
  • Savory: smoked salmon mascarpone mousse

Yep, mascarpone is everywhere. I was utilizing the freshly made cheese; it is only wonderful when super-fresh.

The September 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon who chose this French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the puff pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook “Baking with Julia” by Dorie Greenspan.

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Roasted Pineapple Coconut and Goat Cheese Strudel

This month’s Daring Bakers’ challenge was like a dream come true. I’d been thinking about and planning to learn how to stretch real strudel dough for years. But it always seemed quite time consuming and a bit intimidating. With phyllo dough readily available as a substitute, I’d never attempted the real thing. If I had only known how easy it was! The dough recipe by Rick Rodgers from his wonderful “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” was a little miracle, an absolute pleasure to work with. I managed to stretch the dough effortlessly to the required size, without making a single hole. The whole process of rolling and pulling of the dough took me about five minutes the most. Thank you, Courtney of Coco Cooks and Linda of make life sweeter! – this month’s hosts, for choosing the wonderful recipe for the challenge. It is such a useful skill to acquire. And yes, it was worthy of clipping freshly manicured nails.

As for the strudel filling, I roasted a large pineapple in a mixture of rum, pureed caramelized bananas, ginger and chile flakes (Sherry Yard’s fabulous idea) first. Then I thinly sliced the pineapple and piled it over some toasted coconut spread over the pulled dough. I topped the pineapple with goat cheese pastry cream. The goat cheese I used was fresh, unripened and very delicately flavored, not strong or offensive at all. And for serving, I quickly whipped a fresh mango sauce. The dessert tasted pretty spectacular.

I made a savory strudel as well. There’s, unfortunately, no picture to show since it was baked for a late dinner and there was no daylight for a decent photo to take. The filling was nothing extraordinary, I just utilized every bit of leftovers sitting in my fridge (mostly spinach and baby potatoes, some feta and olives, sautéed onion and garlic, fresh herbs). I didn’t brush the stretched dough with melted butter this time. Instead, I sprayed it with extra-virgin olive oil. I also didn’t sauté fresh bread crumbs in butter as I did for the sweet strudel earlier. I substituted them for Italian seasoned dry bread crumbs. It cut calories down and substantially reduced cholesterol intake. The strudel was as flaky and crispy as the first one.

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