Archive | October, 2011

Harry Potter-Inspired Pumpkin Pasties

27 Oct

Have you ever met anyone who doesn’t love Harry Potter? Nor have I! I’ve been a big fan of the books ever since my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Kraus, introduced them to our class. I would wait patiently until that time after P.E. when we would finish up assignments quietly while she read to us out of the first, and then the second book. I just loved that imaginary, exciting, and magical world, and hoped that in a couple months when I turned 11, I would receive a letter by owl asking me to attend Hogwarts.

Unfortunately I never was visited by an owl, so now I must resort to other ways of coping with being a muggle–hence, these Pumpkin Pasties, inspired by the Harry Potter Cookbook! I don’t own this cookbook, so I am improv-ing this recipe from what little I know of pumpkin pies. :) These palm-sized treats are perfect for Fall because of the deep/spicy/warm flavors, and are also great for this Halloween weekend, especially if you’re planning on enhancing the spirit of your Luna Lovegood costume with some Harry Potter foods!

Being so portable, these little empanada-type hand-pies are also wonderful for popping into your hubby’s lunch for work, or your daughter’s brown bag for school (this is one thing she won’t be trading with friends)! They’re also awesome for people who prefer a larger crust-to-filling ratio. Do I need to say anything more? Probably not, but I will– the ingredients are SO simple and basic, and these hardly take up any time. Literally, I only spent about 30 minutes of actual hands-on action in the kitchen making these delectable treats. Honeydukes, meet your match. ;)

I decided to make these because my bf’s sister is coming home for the weekend from college! She is a huge Potter fan (we saw the last installment of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at midnight together), and I think she would appreciate these. Here’s to you, Emily!

Short Crust Pastry
Makes about 7 pastry shells

2 c. All-Purpose flour
1 c. Unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. Salt
2 tbsp. Granulated sugar
2 tbsp. Cold water
1 tsp. Vanilla extract

  1. Sift your flour, salt, and sugar together in a bowl.
  2. Cut the butter into slices about 1/4-inch thick and put these into your flour mixture.
  3. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour until it looks like cornmeal. If you don’t have a pastry cutter, you can also use two knives or merely your fingers, but I find that it works much better with the tool. Read more about this cutting technique in one of my posts here.
  4. Mix the vanilla and the water together, and sprinkle it over your mixture in the bowl. Use a fork to toss. After about 30 seconds of tossing, I like to start pressing my fork into the dough that is starting to form, causing it to lump together more. If your dough looks too dry… I say trust in this recipe, it’s my go-to ultimate favorite! Don’t add more water, just press as much as you can with your fork. The dough will come together in large lump.
  5. Dump out your lump onto a piece of plastic wrap. Press the lump together with your hands to form a ball, flatten the ball, and wrap in the plastic wrap. Put this in the fridge for about 30 minutes to let the gluten proteins develop.

Great, now you’re finished with the crust! This takes about 10-15 minutes

Pumpkin Filling
Makes enough for 7 hand-pies

1 can (15 oz.) of Pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
2/3 c. Granulated Sugar
1/8 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
1/8 tsp. Ground Nutmeg
1/8 tsp. Ground Cloves
1/8 tsp. Ground Ginger

  1. Merely stir all these ingredients together with a spatula or what have you!

Easy as… dare I say it?… PIE?

Assembly

  1. After your crust has rested, take it out of the fridge for about 5 minutes. At this time, set your oven to 400 degrees F. Then flour your surface and your rolling pin, and roll the dough to 1/8-inch thick. Try roll from the middle, and not back-and-forth.
  2. Use a 6-inch saucer or other template to cut circles out of your dough.
  3. Place about 1/3 c. of the pumpkin filling on one side of the circle. Fold the other half over, and press the edges together with the tines of a fork. Continue until all the dough is used, gathering the scraps and re-rolling as you go. Cut slits in the tops of the pasties to let steam out.
  4. Place all the pasties on a baking sheet. Beat one egg, and brush the egg over the pasties with a pastry brush. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden-brown. Cool before digging in!

So, what do you think? Are you a fan of pumpkin? Would your special someone like to take this handy taste of fall with them to the office? Who in your life is a die-hard Potter fanatic? Got any tips or tricks that I could use to hone my baking skills? Leave a comment below to let me know!

Happy Halloween, everyone! Stay safe :)

Coffee Eclairs

16 Oct

My mom says, “Everybody loves eclairs,” and I couldn’t agree more. Seriously, who could resist a light and puffy treat, filled to the brim with smooth, luscious pastry cream, and then topped with a stripe of glaze? And to make it even better, I made these with coffee! Likewise, everybody loves coffee… or at least I think they should, because coffee is a blessed substance! Besides being absolutely delicious, it is imbued with miraculous properties of competitive inhibition in the brain’s adenosine receptors, i.e. it can keep you awake. Thank you IB 132 Human Physiology!

Since this was my first time making this type of pastry, Pate a Choux, I used information from three different sources– Chez Panisse Desserts, Baking Illustrated, and this intense French pastry book given to my mom by my grandpa. It was written by a renowned pastry chef from Le Cordon Bleu, who won a gazillion awards (listed in the front of the book). It comes in three volumes of which we have two, and is called “Something something Livre de something Patisserie something.” 5 years of learning another romance language, and my mom translating a bit beside me helped me to understand their recipe for Pate a Choux! This is what I gathered from the literature:

  • Pate a Choux is leavened by steam alone.
  • Steam trapped inside the pastry can cause it to collapse after taken out of the oven if vents (holes) aren’t cut into the pastry after baking to let the steam escape.
  • Drying the pastries in the oven after venting them will help the insides to not be too soggy
  • The amount of eggs and the ratios of yolks to whites is pretty important because they help to leaven the dough as well as provide the firm texture necessary for the baked dough to hold up under the wet pastry cream filling.

Aaaaand these are the things I learned from experience!

  • Do not do as I did in this first picture! I piped the pastries WAY too close together!! As a result, the edges that were close did not have enough heat circulating around them. Thus, very little steam formed, and that edge hardly puffed up.
  • I may be guessing at this, but in the stage of cooking the dough over the stove, you should remove it if it begins to steam. My thought process on this one is that you should “reserve the liquid” in the dough so that it can steam up in the oven, in order to puff the pastry up more. If it evaporates on the stove, that means less puffing in the oven. Does this even make sense? Tell me what you think in the comments below! Sometimes, I really need a sounding board for my wacky baking science ideas.

Making coffee pastry cream

Anyway, when it is prepared correctly, this dough bakes up into amazing hollow pastries. Hollow means good for filling! And oooh boy, does this filling satisfy! My boyfriend said his eclair was like eating ice cream (ice cream is his #1 favorite food)! And here’s a funny story (at least funny to me)– We carpool to church, so I arrived at his house with a little box of these eclairs. He ate one, said the aforementioned statement of approval, and we left for worship service.

Immediately after the last song ended a couple hours later, he promptly turned to me and said, “Where did you put the eclairs?”
I answered him, “In the fridge.”
Then he said, “Good, then [the dog] couldn’t have gotten to them.”

Like he had been worrying about them being stolen by the dog throughout the entire church service. I laughed out loud, but of course he hadn’t been that preoccupied. :-P

Pate a Choux
Makes about 24 5-inch Eclair shells

4 eggs, 2 whites (or 1 cup of this ratio)
1/2 c. + 2 tbsp. Unsalted butter
4 tbsp. Whole milk
12 tbsp. Water
3 tsp. Sugar
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 c. Flour

  1. Place water, milk, butter, sugar, and salt in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile beat the eggs (save the two extra yolks for the pastry cream), preheat your oven to 425, and prepare two baking sheets with cooking spray and parchment paper on top of that.
  3. When the milk mixture boils, remove from heat immediately and stir in the flour, until the dough clears the sides of the pan. This shouldn’t take very long at all.
  4. Return to low heat, stirring continually until the dough looks shiny, about 3 minutes.
  5. Take this off the heat, and transfer to a bowl. After the dough has slightly cooled, add the beaten eggs in a gradual stream, mixing constantly. A smooth paste (pate) should form.
  6. Transfer the paste to a pastry bag (or a ziplock, like I do), and pipe strips 1×5 inches on the parchment paper. The strips should be at least 1 inch apart to allow for heat circulation.
  7. Bake those babies for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375 for 8-10 minutes.
  8. After they’re done baking, remove them and cut slits in the sides to let the steam escape. These holes can be used later to open up the hollow pastry for filling, so I just went right ahead and cut long slits in them, like hotdog buns.
  9. You can return them to the oven (off) to dry out for 30-45 minutes.

Coffee Pastry Cream
Makes about 5 cups, enough for the 24 eclairs

4 c. Whole milk (You can use the milk you have on hand, and add half-and-half or cream to make 4 c.)
2/3 c. Flour
12 tbsp. Sugar
12 Egg yolks
2-4 tbsp. Unsalted butter
3 tsp. Instant coffee (you can increase or decrease this depending on how much you like coffee flavor)

  1. Heat the milk to just under boiling. Dissolve the instant coffee in the milk while heating.
  2. Meanwhile, mix flour and sugar in a large saucepan and set aside. Beat the egg yolks until light-colored and set aside.
  3. When the milk scalds, whisk it into the flour and sugar, cooking this over medium heat. Stir constantly until mixture has boiled for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Temper the eggs with a little of the hot milk mixture (warm the eggs up by adding hot milk mixture so they don’t cook and clump if you add them all at once). Stir all of the eggs back into the milk.
  5. Continue to stir constantly until the cream reaches about 170. At this point, it should hold a little of its shape, like in the picture above. Do not let the cream boil after adding the eggs!
  6. Remove from heat, stir in the butter, and push it through a strainer with a spatula to remove any clumps. Wait for the cream to cool, and stir it periodically to prevent a crust forming. Refrigerate until you’re ready to serve the eclairs.
  7. Eclairs can be prepared a little in advance, but not too much, because the choux pastry cannot be soggy. Pastry faux pas. :) When it’s time, place the cream into a piping bag fitted with a large-ish tip, maybe 1/2 inch. I just use ziplock bags with a corner cut out. Pipe the cream into the hollow of the pastry, and don’t be stingy!
  8. Finish with a simple glaze (below).

Coffee Glaze
Makes enough for the 24 eclairs

6 tsp. Whole milk/Half-and-Half/Cream
1 1/2 tsp. Instant Coffee
About 2/3 c. powdered sugar

  1. Dissolve the instant coffee in your milk/cream.
  2. Gradually add the powdered sugar, whisking well, until you have reached the desired consistency. I am guessing that I used about 2/3 c, but I forgot to measure exactly! I just used a knife to spread this glaze like frosting.

Et Voila! Scrumptious coffee eclairs that taste like you are an angel floating around and eating fluffy clouds that rain coffee. Yes, they taste exactly like that.

This took me about 1.5 hours, not including baking/cooling time, so not long at all! I got to share them with my mom, my mom’s French student, the student’s mom, my bf, and my bf’s family. They all seemed to really enjoy them, which made me so happy inside. I definitely suggest that you make the whole batch, and don’t halve the recipe! Seriously, I could not get enough of these and wish that there were still some left over!

So, what you think about these eclairs? Have you ever used Pate a Choux before? What have you learned from your trials and/or errors? Who do you know that would enjoy these–everyone, like my mom says?! What should I bake next? Leave me a comment below to let me know!

Secret Breakfast Cupcakes– Bourbon + Corn Flakes

2 Oct

Greetings, all! This lovely little experiment is what I would like to call the Secret Breakfast Cupcake, inspired by Humphry Slocombe’s famous Secret Breakfast ice cream flavor, just as promised.

And an amazing flavor it truly is! The San Francisco ice cream shop that I mentioned previously in this post creates this flavor with Jim Beam Kentucky bourbon and little bits of corn flakes scattered throughout, which makes complete sense. Of course you’d want a breakfast of bourbon + corn flakes to be secret! I am in no way condoning this type of nutrition or habit, but how very sassy of them! And what an interesting and novel flavor combination! This is among my favorite flavors at Humphry Slocombe, so I decided to make a cupcake out of it. Of course, if you’re not a fan of the cornflakes, just leave them out and you’ve still got scrumptious bourbon cupcakes! Hope you like bourbon. :)

It’s my first attempt at creating an original recipe, not borrowed or adapted from anywhere/anything, and I’ve gotta say, making your own recipe out of nothing was a long and arduous process! I did some research, I drafted and tried many recipes (I think 4 or 5 in total), and came out with many flops, finally arriving at this product. Throughout the whole thing, I was wondering, Do professional bakers do this? Do they make recipes up off the top of their head? What is their secret power?! Needless to say, after so many batches, I was quite frustrated, but when I tasted this version a few minutes out of the oven, I almost keeled over in surprise and triumph. It was SO good. I don’t typically like to toot my own horn, and I know I probably got a lot wrong in the traditional ingredient ratios and techniques involved in creating cupcakes, but gosh darnit!–these tasted delicious! But that is just my opinion. You’ve got to make these and judge for yourself :)

The cake I ended up with was very dense and moist, almost like pound cake or a quickbread. I tasted just the right amount of bourbon flavor, and the little vanilla seed specks throughout made the cake look oh-so-pretty! The buttercream frosting was very sweet and a little overpowering–I couldn’t really taste the corn flakes at the same intensity as I did in the ice cream flavor. However, after many trials and errors, adding the corn flakes on top of everything was the only way I could think of to not have them absorb moisture and lose all their crunchiness.

**As always, starred steps will have notes at the end.

Bourbon Cupcakes
Makes about 20 cupcakes

2 c. Cake flour
2 c. Sugar
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
3 tsp. Baking powder
1 c. Unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 c. Bourbon, like Jim Beam
4 eggs, room temperature
1 c. Buttermilk (I improv’ed with milk topped it off with white vinegar)
2 tsp. Vanilla extract
2/3 Vanilla bean pod

  1. Pour your buttermilk into a measuring cup. Split the vanilla bean in half length-wise with a sharp knife. Using the non-cutting edge of the knife, scrape the inside of both bean halves to remove all the tiny black seeds. Add the seeds to the buttermilk, along with the pod, and let that steep for about 30 minutes, or until it reaches room temperature.
  2. At this point, preheat your oven to 350. Heat the bourbon in a saucepan over medium heat until it just reaches boiling. Set this aside to cool.
  3. Sift the flour, salt, and baking powder together and set aside.
  4. Using a stand or hand-held mixer, cream the butter and the sugar together for 5 minutes until it has gained volume and turned a very light shade. Add the eggs, mixing well after each.* Add the vanilla extract.
  5. Once the bourbon has cooled, add it to the buttermilk. Take the vanilla pod out at this point, of course.
  6. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the creamed butter. Mix slowly. Add 1/2 of the liquid ingredients, and mix slowly. Add another 1/3 of the dry ingredients and mix, then the last 1/2 of the liquid and mix, and then finally the last 1/3 of the dry ingredients.*
  7. Pour the batter into the wells of a muffin pan lined with paper liners, and bake for about 18 minutes. Remove and cool on a wire rack.

Notes:

  • Since these cupcakes came out quite dense, you can try this method to make them a little fluffier: In this step, only add the yolks to the creamed butter mixture. Save the whites and beat separately until they form soft peaks. Gently fold these whites into the batter after step 6.
  • This method of adding the dry and wet ingredients in a series of 3/2 prevents a lot of gluten from forming when batter is over-mixed. This keeps the cake tender instead of tough.

Bourbon Buttercream
Makes enough to frost about 20 cupcakes

1/2 c. (1 stick) Unsalted butter, at room temperature
3-4 c. confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
1/3 Vanilla bean pod
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
About 4 tbsp. Bourbon

  1. Cream the butter until light and fluffy.
  2. Incorporate about 1/2 of powdered sugar at a time, beating well after each addition.
  3. Cut the vanilla bean pod, scrape, and add the seeds.
  4. Gradually add the bourbon and mix well.
  5. Continue adding powdered sugar or bourbon until you reach the right consistency for piping. If you’ve reached your desired bourbon flavor, but the frosting is still too dry, you can add milk to avoid the overpowering bourbon taste.

You could frost these cupcakes with a knife, or pipe them like I did. I don’t have any piping tips, so I just mimicked this piped look by filling a ziplock bag with the frosting, cutting a 1/4-inch hole in the corner, and piping with that. I use a handy no-mess method to fill the baggie: open up the ziplock and place it in a glass, cuffing the open edges around the rim of the glass. Now you still have two hands to manage the bowl and your spatula :)

Of course, this recipe probably has  a lot of issues, especially coming from an amateur with very little baking experience. So if you’ve got suggestions for how to make this cupcake less dense, or how to incorporate the cornflakes so you can taste them better, leave me a comment in the space below! I’d love to hear your feedback!

I shared these cupcakes with my bf’s family! I hope you make them for a special person, or special occasion, or maybe just for Wednesday night dessert. Let me know if you tried them, and how you liked them!

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