What can I say? I love sweets, in all shapes and sizes! You only live once, so why not indulge once in a while? Or, in my case, most of the time...
The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.
So, this month I was EXCITED! I’ve wanted to make a Croquembouche for a very long time, and this challenge gave me both a reason to make it, and an amazing recipe to follow. I tested out the recipe numerous times, partly to make sure it would be perfect when I came to assemble my Croquembouche, mostly because I really wanted to eat Profiteroles!
The creme patissiere is AMAZING. I ate it could eat it by the bowlful and I never had a problem with this part of the recipe. After I figured out that I could make meringues from the two egg whites left over I had ever more reason to love this recipe. Who can say no to custard and meringues? Not necessarily together…
I had a few teething difficulties with the Pate a Choux with my first two batches ending up flat and nasty. I followed the recipe to the T but still they wouldn’t rise. Until, I worked out that I needed to keep the pan on the heat while adding the flour. Apparantly the steam has something to do with reacting to the flour and making it rise blah blah blah. Whatever the reason, it worked like a charm. No more pancake profiteroles, puffy all the way!
(Im not sure why the pic is so yellow, im still figuring all the photography out.)
Now all that remained was to construct my mountain. With the help of a lot of melted chocolate and a plastic drinking cup, I finally had my Croquembouche! Hooray!
Croquembouche Recipe – From the Daring Bakers
Creme Patissiere – Ingredients (I needed two batches of the original recipe so I have doubled the ingredients, halve them if you want to make less)
2 cups (450 ml.) full cream milk
4 Tbsp. cornflour
12 Tbsp. (200 g.) sugar
2 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
4 Tbsp. (60 g.) unsalted butter
2 Tsp. Vanilla
1. Dissolve cornflour in 1/2 cup of milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat.
2. Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornflour mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook.
3. Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.
4. Continue whisking (this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla.
5. Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use.
Pate a Choux – Ingredients
¾ cup (175 ml.) water
6 Tbsp. (85 g.) unsalted butter
¼ Tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup (125 g.) all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1. Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally.
2. Cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.
3. Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.
4. Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny. As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes.
5. It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.
6. Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip, pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide.
7. Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top.
At this point you can brush them with an egg wash, I didn’t bother and they were still tasty and pretty!
8. Bake the choux at 425?F/220?C degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes.
9. Lower the temperature to 350?F/180?C degrees and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool. Make sure you keep an eye on them as they bake, I took mine out after about 10 mins extra because they were beginning to burn on top.
You can use spun sugar to assemble your Croquembouche but after reading many stories of burnt fingers and toes I thought I wouldn’t risk it. Instead I used melted chocolate. Yum!
You may want to lay out your unfilled, unglazed choux in a practice design to get a feel for how to assemble the final dessert. For example, if making a conical shape, trace a circle (no bigger than 8 inches) on a piece of parchment to use as a pattern. Then take some of the larger choux and assemble them in the circle for the bottom layer. Practice seeing which pieces fit together best.
Once you are ready to assemble your piece montée, dip the top of each choux in your glaze (careful it may be still hot!), and start assembling on your cake board/plate/sheet. Continue dipping and adding choux in levels using the glaze to hold them together as you build up. (You may want to use toothpicks to hold them in place – see video #4 below).
When you have finished the design of your piece montée, you may drizzle with remaining glaze or use ribbons, sugar cookie cut-outs, almonds, flowers, etc. to decorate. Have fun and enjoy! Bon appétit!
Now I just need to put a little disclaimer in here. I use the word “brownies” very loosely here because, well they aren’t brownies (strictly speaking). Two things led me to bake this treat.
Number One: I was intrigued by this post by Bakerella about the strangely named Congo Bars. Basically, they’re what we call Blondies, Brownies with white chocolate instead of cocoa. Yummo! Particularly apt because at that moment my pantry was absolutely full of cooking chocolate of the white, dark AND milk variety. They needed to be eaten.
Number Two: I got a new job! Yay! Now, most of you will have heard me bemoaning my chronic state of unemployment over the past six months. In a bit of an up and down week last week, I had two interviews and, finally, success! Of course, new jobness must be celebrated with the consumption of sweet, chocolatey mouthfuls of amazing. Yes, amazing is now a noun.
So I tried the Bakerella Congo Bars. Im not sure if I converted the measurements wrong, or missed an ingredient or what, but something went pretty wrong with these. They were too dry and just didn’t cut it. So I searched and I searched and I found what I was pretty sure would be a good Blondie recipe. Thankyou, Hummingbird Bakery for sharing your delicious recipes with us mere mortals! I just upped the chocolate quota in this recipe and swapped the nuts for chocolate (like you didn’t see that coming!) and voila! Amazing Blondies, truly worthy for such a celebration. Enjoy!
I subscribe to the belief that the batter is just the stuff that holds all the chocolate together. Yes I do.
Blondies – Adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook
150g White chocolate
125g Unsalted butter
150g Caster Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
200g Plain Flour
1 pkt Milk Choc Chips (I cant remember how big the packet was, just use however much you want!)
1 pkt Dark Choc Chips (As above)
6 Squares of Milk Cooking Chocolate (These are really optional, I just liked having a big square of chocolate to bit into at the center of each blondie!)
6 Squares of Dark Cooking Chocolate (As above)
1. Put the white chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Leave until melted and smooth. (These are the instructions given by Hummingbird, I melted the butter in the microwave and melted the white chocolate in the butter and it turned out alright. Much less hassle than a double boiler too)
2. Add the sugar and stir until well incorporated
3. Add the eggs and vanilla extract, stirring vigorously so that the eggs don’t cook
4. Add the flour
5. Mix in the choc chips
6. Spread mixture into a baking tray and place the chocolate squares in the batter
7. Bake at 170 degrees celsius for 35-40 mins or until golden brown on top. DO NOT OVERCOOK!
8. Try not to pass out when you bit into all those amazing pieces of chocolate.
So its definitely onesie weather! When its this cold you absolutely need a warm dessert to round off a meal and let your body know its time to wind down to go to bed. And who knows how to make a quick, warm, comforting dessert better than anyone? Nigella does. After a dinner of roasted veggies, I thought i’d try the Chocolate Pear Pudding from the Nigella Express cookbook. Partly because I love the chocolate/pear combination, mostly because I wanted something super quick and easy! (And also I think the little pear halves look really cute laid out on the bottom of the pan!)
Look! Pear bums!
True to the book it came from, this recipe is truly a scrumptious dessert made the express way. I was worried that the cake batter was too thick to produce a moist cake but, trust in Nigella, for only she can show you the true way to amazing desserts. (Don’t worry, I haven’t lost faith in The Saint, but Nigella really is the queen of the quickie dessert.)
Baby its cold outside! And since my family don’t believe in heating, im going to make it my personal mission this winter to bake my house warm. First stop, Peaches and Cream Cupcakes. I first tried these little babies a few years ago when my mum bought me the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook for my birthday. They were so tasty and easy that I figured it would be very grinchy of me not to share them with you!
Beware, this is one cupcake you need to eat with a spoon. Unless you want to drop peaches everywhere. But if thats how you roll… who am I to judge?
So my lovelies, what is your favourite flavour of cupcake? And what flavour frosting do you normally put on them? I always love to hear from you!
Peaches and Cream Cupcakes –From the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook
120g plain flour
140g caster sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
40g unsalted butter
120ml full cream milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
400g tinned peaches (I buy the ones that are cut into segments, then I cut them in half down the middle again)
1. Beat the flour, sugar, baking power and butter until the mixture has a sandy consistency
2. Gradually pour in half the milk and beat until it is just incorporated
3. Whisk the egg, vanilla and remaining milk together in a separate bowl then pour it into the flour mixture. Beat until the mixture is sooth
4. Divide the sliced peaches between the patty pans (I like to put enough pieces in so that the bottom is completely lined)
5. Fill the patty pans until two thirds full
6. Bake on 170 degrees celsius for 20 or 25 minutes, until the tops are golden
Ingredients – For Vanilla Frosting
250g icing sugar
80g unsalted buter
25ml full cream milk
a few drops of vanilla extract
1. Beat the icing sugar and butter together until the mixture comes together
2. Mix in the milk and vanilla extract (sometimes I put the milk in in step 1 if the mixture seems too dry)
3. Turn your mixer up to high speed and beat for about 5 minutes or until the frosting is light and fluffy
4. Ice those puppies!
Now Donna, I never thought I would say this but while I will always love you with your fail safe and amazing desserts, you have been outdone. I have discovered The Saint. And of course, I am referring to that paragon of amazing English cooking, Saint Delia. The story goes a little something like this.
My good friend Helen the Melon lent me several books and magazines a few weeks ago to help me with my quest to cook a terrific pudding (and yes, the magazines were Donna Hay, she still has a place in my heart!) Among the collection were the Delia’s How To Cook books One Two and Three. No matter how much I learn about cooking I always feel that theres still so much I dont know. So I was delighted to see that Delia’s books were a comprehensive guide to the absolute basics of cookery. Perfect for beginners, Book One’s opening chapter is “All About Eggs.” Hooray! I love eggs!
So I dutifully set about reading and testing, testing and eating, eating and, well, more eating. Until I reached a certain recipe that had me salivating like Pavlov’s Dog. That recipe was Warm Lemon Curd Souffles. My love of lemons has been well documented in this blog and its not often that I can return from the supermarket without one or two lemons. They just look so damn tasty at the moment! But despite this enduring love of citrus, I was apprehensive, for I had NEVER tried to make a souffle before and their reputation for being fickle and deflating had far preceded them.
With the help of Saint Delia, I rallied and attempted these amazing desserts. I followed all the instructions to the letter, popped them in the oven and crossed my fingers and my toes. I suspect my sister may have also had her fingers crossed. Maybe it was all that crossing, but when I took them out they were BLISSFULLY risen and utterly delicious! Beautifully puffed souffle on top, gorgeous creamy layer of Lemon Curd on the bottom, what more could you ask for? Except for more please!! If you try no other souffle recipe in your lifetime, you must try this one.
P.s. I did have some difficulty with my grated lemon zest being quite chunky, can anyone recommend a fine grater that is good for zesting?
Warm Lemon Curd Souffles – From Delia’s How To Cook Book One
Ingredients – For The Lemon Curd
The grated zest and juice of one small lemon
1 large egg
40g caster sugar
25g cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 tsp cornflour
Method – For Lemon Curd
1. Lightly whisk the eggs in a small/medium saucepan
2. Add the rest of the ingredients (only the lemon curd ingredients!) and place the saucepan over a medium heat
3. Whisk the mixture continuously using a balloon whisk until it thickens (about 3 mins)
4. Lower the heat to its minimum setting and let the curd simmer for 1 more minute, whisking all the time
5. Remove from heat and divide the curd between the bases of four ramekins (Delia says to use ramekins with a base diameter of 6cm and a top diameter of 7.5cm. I just used ones that I thought would work!)
Ingredients – For the Souffles
3 large eggs
Grated zest and juice of one medium lemon (should be about 2 tablespoons of juice)
50g caster sugar (Delia specifies Golden Caster sugar, but I couldn’t find any and normal seemed to do the trick)
1 dessert spoon of caster sugar
Method – For the Souffles
1. Separate the eggs putting the yolks into a medium sized bowl and the whites into a larger bowl
2. Whisk the whites until they reach the stiff peak stage (about 4-5 mins depending on what whisking method you use)
3. Add the dessert spoon of sugar and whisk for 30 seconds more
4. Add the zest and lemon juice and the rest of the sugar to the yolks and whisk briefly
5. Take a tablespoon of the whites and fold into the yolks mixture
6. Gently folk in the rest of the whites being very careful not to knock the air out of the mixture
7. Spoon the mixture into the prepared ramekins, piling it high like a pyramid. Run your finger around the inside rim of each ramekin (this will help prevent any of the mixture leaking out around the sides)
8. Place the ramekins on a baking tray and bake on the centre shelf of the oven for 15 mins on 170 degrees celsius (I only baked them for about 8 minutes, use your judgement and when they are nice and golden on top, take them out)
9. Let them rest for about 5 mins before serving to allow the curd to cool a bit
10. EAT EAT EAT!
Guilt. Is there any better reason for a cupcake baking spree? For the past few weeks ive been having this constant niggling feeling that im supposed to be somewhere that im currently not. The other night that feeling was particularly strong and, as I got a phone call from my friend while I was sitting at home in my onesie (yes, I said onesie) the penny dropped. We had dinner plans. As I answered the incoming call, I braced myself for the inevitable “Katie where are you? Im at the restaurant!” What I heard was actually “Hey, just checking that we’re still on for dinner tomorrow.” Thank. God. I just have to say here that I love my friends, they put up with so much from me!
Cue onslaught of guilt about how awful a friend I am. Guilt that only a sugar fix could cure.
Truth be told I didnt really need an excuse to bake these. I had been wanting to try a new cupcake recipe for a while and, for want of a new recipe I thought i’d try to revamp an old one! Donna Hay, the fate of my cupcaking rests on your shoulders.
I cracked out the amazing Donna Hay Chocolate Buttermilk Layer Cake recipe and substituted the cocoa for flour. The cupcakes ended up with the same luscious moistness as the chocolate cake and they tasted pretty damn good to boot! The only problem was that they looked a little bit grey inside. Not the lovely yellow or cream that vanilla cupcakes usually have. Hmm. Any suggestions? Please comment, i’d love to hear!
p.s. the rosewater icing was so yummy! Like turkish delight…
p.p.s. arent the spoons cute?! Easter present from my boyfriend <3
Buttermilk Cupcake – Adapted from Donna Hay’s Chocolate Buttermilk Layer Cake
1 cup (250ml) water
2 1/3 cups (300g) plain flour
1 tsp bi-carb soda
2 cups (440g) caster sugar
1/2 cup (125ml) buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1. Melt butter and water together
2. Place flour, bi-carb and sugar in a bowl, and whisk in the butter mixture
3. Add the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla and mix until smooth
4. Divide the mixture between patty pans and bake for 30ish minutes (keep your eye on these, your oven might be faster or slower than mine!)
2 cups (300g) icing sugar
1 tsp rosewater
1 tbsp milk
pink food colouring
1. Chuck everything into a bowl and mix! Add more milk if the icing is too dry and more icing sugar if its too wet. What could be simpler?