Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ooey Gooey Golden Cream Puffs


There's something comforting about eating a cream puff. One bite and the crunchy caramel breaks and the soft sweet buttery cream filling fills your mouth and you are in heaven.

I always have to remind myself to limit myself to one a day. I remember one summer in my early teens how I gained so much weight from eating these sinful goodies every afternoon after swimming lessons. To this day I still carry around the proof of that indulgence.

Making cream puffs require a three-step process. First is making the pate a choux or the pastry shells which requires a high baking temperature of 400°F. Next comes cooking the creme anglaise or cream filling. The last step is making the caramel to top the cream puffs.

This is a dessert you can make even without a mixer. Here's the recipe:

Pate a Choux (Pastry Shell)

1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
pinch of salt
4 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour


In a heavy saucepan, combine water, butter and salt. Bring to a rolling boil. Add in flour and mix over low flame till dough leaves the sides of the saucepan. Let cool till warm. Using a whisk, beat in egg yolks one at a time. Transfer dough to a pastry bag fitted with a round tip with1/2 inch opening. Pipe 1 1/2 rounds of pastry two inches apart onto greased cookie sheets. Bake at 400° F for 30 minutes of till dry and golden. Cool on wire racks before filling with cream.

Creme Anglaise (Cream Filling)

1/3 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup refined sugar
2 cups fresh milk
3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine cornstarch and sugar in a saucepan. Add in milk. Bring to a low simmer while stirring constantly. Pour half cup of the hot mixture into beaten egg yolks. Add egg yolk mixture back to the sauce pan with the rest of the cream. Cook until the mixture till thick and coats the back of a spoon. Add vanilla extract and butter. Cool completely before piping into center of pastry shells.

Caramel

1 1/2 cups refined sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Boil till lightly golden . Use immediately to coat top of cream-filled pastry.

Note: Cool caramel completely before serving.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Mini Almond Bundt Cakes

When I was little I used to hate the smell and taste of almond extract. It used to make me think of bathroom deodorizer. But just like cilantro, it's an acquired taste and I've grown to like, if not love, the new dimension of flavor almond extract gives to cakes and other desserts.

I thought I'd try it on mini bundt cakes. I just used my old pound cake recipe and replace the citrus flavors with almond. So here's the recipe. Hope you'll try it out and be converted like me.



Mini Almond Bundt Cakes

1 cup unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups refined sugar, divided
6 large egg yolks
2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup fresh milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
6 large egg whites
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
3 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

1. Sift flour and baking powder. Set aside.
2. Cream butter and half of sugar for 10 minutes at medium speed of mixer.
3. Add egg yolks one at a time.
4. Add in vanilla and almond extracts.
5. At low mixer speed, add flour mixture alternately with milk. Set batter aside.
6. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites and remaining sugar till stiff but not dry.
7. Gently fold egg whites into batter.
8. Pour into mini bundt pans.
9. Bake at 325°F for 20 to 25 minutes or till toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
10. Cool in pan 5 minutes then transfer to wire rack to cool completely before pouring topping.

To make topping:
1. Mix powdered sugar, water and almond extract till smooth.
2. Pour topping on mini bundt cakes then sprinkle with toasted almonds.

Makes about 12 mini bundt cakes.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Vanilla Créme Bruleé that makes you sigh

Creme Brulee is one of my favorite desserts. The presentation alone is enough to exude oohs and aahs from everyone. It's not too rich or heavy in my opinion. And the size is just right when you're trying hard not to indulge too much.

Although making creme brulee looks very complicated, it's really very simple to make. You can even make it in advance to save time.


Vanilla Créme Bruleé

4 cups heavy cream
8 large egg yolks
2/3 cup refined sugar
1 vanilla bean

additional refined sugar for caramel topping

1. Whisk together egg yolks and refined sugar. Set aside.
2. In a heavy saucepan, heat heavy cream and vanilla bean (split in half lengthwise) till small bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Let stand about 10 minutes. Remove vanilla pod.
3. Carefully pour heated cream into the eggyolk-sugar mixture.
4. Strain mixture into a glass pitcher and divide into oven-proof ramekins.
5. Place ramekins into a roasting pan. Pour hot water into pan till level reaches about an inch up the sides of the ramekins.
6. Bake at 300°F for a 30 minutes.
7. Cool on counter then chill at least 4 hours or overnight.
8. To serve, sprinkle about a teaspoon of sugar on top of creme brulee. Caramelize sugar with a kitchen torch or broiler.
9. Serve immediately. Makes 16 servings.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Chunky Chocolate Chip Chip Cookies (where it all began)


As far back as I can remember, chocolate chip cookies with walnuts are the first ever baked product I made. All at the tender age of 15. If I'm not mistaken I was using a tiny oven toaster then. I got the original recipe from a old copy of Good Housekeeping magazine more than 20 years ago and I've tweaked it a bit.

I've tested a lot of recipes for chocolate chip cookies but here's one that I'd rather stick with.

Chunky Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup refined sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts

1. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
2. Cream butter, shortening, refined sugar and brown sugar for about 5 minutes.
3. Add eggs one at a time.
4. At low speed, add flour mixture until just mixed.
5. Fold in chocolate chips and walnuts by hand.
6. Using a 1 oz. scoop, drop cookie dough 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets.
7. Bake in 350F oven for 12 to 15 minutes.
8. Cool 2 minutes on cookie sheet then transfer to wire rack and cool completely.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Welcome to my kitchen!

My passionate love affair with baking has been on-and-off for the last 15 years. Nothing warms my insides more than the smell of sweet treats coming out of the oven.

Here you'll find some of my kitchen adventures and misadventures and hopefully have a laugh or two. I'll also be sharing some of my favorite recipes every now and then.

So relax and let me pour you a cup of coffee while we chat.