Archive for May, 2010

Croquembouche (Piece Montée) – Daring Bakers Challenge May 2010

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

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.

I’ve made two croquembouches’ so far, the original one from Masterchef and the chocolate swirl one, also from MasterChef. So, when I found out this month’s challenge was also a croquembouche I was both a bit indifferent, and also excited.

First of all, the slight disappointment was due to it not being something new. Although the excitement came from knowing how gorgeous the custard filled profiteroles with lovely crunchy toffee are. My family and I cannot resist croquembouche, although the next Christmas or event I make it for, I’ll just be pouring the caramel over the top and not building a cone shaped tower.

The other excitement came from trying the different recipes, I was hoping for a harder choux pastry, one which was a bit crunchy and kept its shape quite well. I think this choux pastry recipe may have succeeded in this, although I still need to learn my oven better, as they were cooked in 10-15 minutes, almost burning, so I couldn’t leave them in the oven to dry out longer, for fear of losing them.

For my own challenge, I decided to try making cute little caramel corkscrews. Using a spoon, I spun the caramel around a clean knife (sharpening) steel. And they worked! I had to keep heating and cooling the caramel though to make it the right consistency – which was quite difficult to figure out.

Unfortunately for the presentation, the lovely caramel strands around the outside started beading within 20 minutes and by the time we ate the croquembouche, a few hours afterwards, there were no strands to be seen. I’m not sure whether this was due to the humidity we had here, or whether the glucose added to caramel contributes to the stability of the caramel.

Overall, I was very excited making this again, and I think it made the perfect quantity (even though people asked – where’s the rest of it?). The different components themselves are relatively easy, and I will consider making it more often, now that I won’t be making trays and trays worth of profiteroles, and a large lasagna dish filled with custard.

Croquembouche (Piece Montée)

Recipe Source: Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and were originally created by famed pastry chef, Nick Malgieri.

Vanilla Crème Patissiere (Half Batch) [I made a full batch – double this – although I think I could have made 1.5 batches – three times this]
1 cup (225 ml.) whole milk
2 Tbsp. cornstarch / cornflour
6 Tbsp. (100 g.) sugar – I used caster sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp. (30 g.) unsalted butter
1 Tsp. Vanilla

Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat.

Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornstarch mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook.

Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.

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.

Pour cream [Crème Patissiere] into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use.

Pate a Choux (Yield: About 28) [Mine made more than 50]
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

For Egg Wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt

Pre-heat oven to 425◦F/220◦C degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Preparing batter:
Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely.

Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly. [A KitchenAid works so well for this]

Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny.

After mixing in the first egg

As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes.

It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.

After mixing in the second egg

After mixing in the third egg

After the fourth and final egg

Piping:
Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip (I piped directly from the bag opening without a tip). Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide.

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.

Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with pinch of salt).

Baking:
Bake the choux at 425◦F/220◦C degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes. [mine cooked in 15 minutes total]

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.

Can be stored in a airtight box overnight.

Filling:
When you are ready to assemble your piece montée, using a plain pastry tip, pierce the bottom of each choux. Fill the choux with pastry cream using either the same tip or a star tip, and place on a paper-lined sheet. Choux can be refrigerated briefly at this point while you make your glaze.

Use one of these to top your choux and assemble your piece montée.

Hard Caramel Glaze: [I needed 1.5 – 2 times this recipe, as I stirred it too early]
1 cup (225 g.) sugar
½ teaspoon lemon juice

Combine sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan with a metal kitchen spoon stirring until the sugar resembles wet sand. Place on medium heat; heat without stirring until sugar starts to melt around the sides of the pan and the center begins to smoke. Begin to stir sugar. Continue heating, stirring occasionally until the sugar is a clear, amber color. Remove from heat immediately; place bottom of pan in ice water to stop the cooking. Use immediately.

Assembly of your Piece Montée:
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.

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!

Vegetable Rolls

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

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Now, I don’t suppose you could call anything with puff pastry healthy. Although, you could say this is healthier than the normal sausage roll. These vegie rolls are packed full of vegetables, most of which you might not be able to guess while eating them. So, unsuspecting kids (and adults) will get a vegie fill when they go for these rolls at a party.

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I decided to make this recipe combining many vegetables I had on hand, so I’m sure it can be altered to what you have lying around.

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Vegetables Rolls

Recipe by Anita @ Leave Room for Dessert

Makes: 50

250g spinach, fresh or frozen (thawed and water pressed out)
2 large carrots (300g), grated
1 zucchini (200g), grated
12 mushrooms (200g), grated
4 cloves garlic, crushed
200g corn kernels, drained
1 egg, lightly beaten
250g ricotta
1/4 cup sweet chili sauce
1/2 cup bread crumbs
5 sheets puff pastry

1 egg beaten for glazing (or milk)
poppy seeds for sprinkling on top

Mix all the vegetables in a large bowl. Add the ricotta, egg and sweet chili sauce, mix to combine. Add the breadcrumbs and mix until fully combined.

Cut the pastry sheets in half. Spoon equal amounts of the vegetable filling down the middle or side of the pastry sheet – to form an even roll. Place a small amount of egg wash down the length of the puff pastry. Roll the pastry up firmly and sealing with a little pinch on the edge. Brush some egg wash over the top and sprinkle with poppy seeds.

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At this stage, either freeze as they are (with some baking paper or puff pastry plastic between the rolls) or, to eat straight away – preheat oven to 180°C. Cut each roll into 5 equal portions. Place on a baking paper lined tray and place in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until they are browned and cooked through. Serve with sweet chili sauce.

For Frozen rolls, allow to thaw enough to cut through with a knife. Cook in a preheated oven (180°C) for 20 minutes or longer, depending on how much they have thawed.

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Pistachio Macarons

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

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Happy Mother’s Day!

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Even though these lovely pistachio macarons weren’t made for Mother’s Day – they were made for my Mum – on her birthday. They were the decorations for the dessert I made for her (a while ago now), I hope to post it soon. For the main meal on her birthday, we made the most awesome beef bourguignon pie – using Julia Child’s recipe (here is the recipe, if you don’t have the book). It was AMAZING! It took a while to prepare, but was worth it – it doesn’t get any better.

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These home made pistachio macarons turned out just how I wanted. Cute little feet (the frill at the base of the macaron), slightly crisp on the outside, a lovely chewy centre and a wonderfully tasty pistachio flavour.

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These would be perfect for a kitchen tea, high tea, baby shower or petit fours after a meal.

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Pistachio Macarons

Recipe by Anita @ Leave Room for Dessert

Makes 46 sandwiched macarons

120g egg whites (aged for a day or two – covered in the fridge then brought to room temperature, or left at room temperature if the weather’s cool)
90g caster sugar
220g pure icing sugar
80g almond meal
80g pistachios

Pistachio butter cream
80g butter, at room temperature
160g icing sugar
50g pistachio

Process the icing sugar, pistachios and almond meal in a food processor until very finely ground, like dust. Sift and set aside.

Beat egg whites until frothy, add the caster sugar whilst continuing to beat the egg whites on high until it forms a glossy thick meringue. Beat and fold the icing sugar and nut mixture into the meringue until the mixture flows and when the mixture is piped, any peaks sink back after a few minutes. Pipe 3-4cm circles on lined baking trays. Leave at room temperature for 30 minutes or more to form a skin.

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Preheat oven to 150°C and cook macarons for 10 minutes or until slightly coloured, crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside. Allow to cool and then fill with the pistachio butter cream or another filling.

For the pistachio butter cream, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Process the pistachios with the icing sugar until finely ground. Beat the pistachio sugar into the butter in batches. When all the pistachio sugar is incorporated it is ready to fill the macarons. If it isn’t spreadable, add a touch of milk and mix until smooth.

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Vanilla Panna Cotta with Pomegranate and Pomegranate Syrup

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

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After being sent two lovely Royal Pom pomegranates from Catherine at Wordstom, I decided to try my hand (for a third time) at making a vanilla panna cotta with pomegranate, pomegranate syrup and lavender honey similar to the one served at Jonah’s at Whale Beach (I tried it at Taste of Sydney earlier this year – lovely!).

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The Royal Pom pomegranates I was sent are grown in Australia, and the distributor Perfection Fresh, is Australian owned. Supporting Australian grown and owned produce and businesses is always a high priority. I also found out from the info I was sent that you can freeze the pomegranate arils for a year – so I’ve got some in the freezer, so we’ll see how they go.

With their lovely burst of flavour, you can see why I’ve already used pomegranates in this herb and fruit chicken dish.

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Now, I mentioned this was my third time at trying to make this dessert – well, that’s because I thought I could make my own moulds for the panna cotta. And I couldn’t.

I have previously, successfully made moulds from baking paper, which support chocolate, and using acetate – which supports mousse. Although the panna cotta mix is too liquid – if there is a hole at the bottom of the mould, it leaks out. If you manage to twist the acetate in a way that there is no hole, it will leak into every spot possible and won’t come off easily either…

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So I went and bought some cone moulds and although they certainly held the liquid, the panna cotta still stuck to the mould and needed a knife and a bit of patience for it to finally come out.

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I also needed Nick’s help in holding the panna cotta upwards, as the cone was either the wrong shape (too high), or I needed a touch more gelatine for the liquid I had used (or I should have left it longer – as ones that were taken out the next day stood up a lot better). Either way – the vanilla panna cotta tasted lovely and went very well with the burst of flavour from the pomegranate arils, and the pomegranate syrup. (Can you believe I had no honey in the house! – this would have worked very nicely with the rest of the dessert).

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Vanilla Panna Cotta with Pomegranate and Pomegranate Syrup

Recipe by Anita @ Leave Room for Dessert
Inspiration: the dessert from Jonah’s at Whale Beach

Serves: 6-8

600ml cream
200ml milk
1 vanilla bean, scraped
3 titanium strength gelatine leaves*
Oil for greasing

½ pomegranate, juiced [approx 75ml] (with a normal citrus juicer – wear an apron)
25g caster sugar

½ pomegranate, seeds/arils to serve
Honey or lavender infused honey, to serve

* the gelatine leaves I was using were titanium strength (5g each) – the packet said 1 sheet will set 250ml liquid (the same as 1 teaspoon of gelatine). As far as I know, 4 gold strength gelatine leaves set 250ml – you may need 12 gold strength gelatine leaves for this recipe. If you aren’t using a difficult mould like I did – less gelatine can be used (maybe 2 sheets) as this will produce a softer panna cotta.

Soak the gelatine leaves in water for 5 minutes, or until soft.

Place the cream, milk, vanilla bean seeds and vanilla bean in a saucepan and bring almost to the boil. Remove from heat. Whisk in the gelatine leaves until dissolved, then pour into a large bowl and stir to remove heat. Spray any moulds, that you want the panna cotta to come out of, with a bit of oil (if you are pouring into a glass, no oil is needed). Allow mixture to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, to reduce the heat before pouring into moulds. Allow to set for a few hours or overnight in the fridge.

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For the pomegranate syrup, mix pomegranate juice and sugar in a saucepan over medium/high heat. Reduce to half the volume or until at a flavour you are happy with (if left too long it will start to caramelise).

To serve, remove panna cotta from mould in the middle of a plate. Drizzle the pomegranate syrup around the panna cotta and scatter pomegranate arils. (Honey or lavendar infused honey can also be drizzled around the panna cotta).

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