Not Paris Brest: cream puffs instead!

I had grand plans to make a Paris Brest for New Year’s Eve. I even looked up how to pronounce it properly along with its history. I thought I would use my French Feasts cookbook as it is “traditional” French home cooking. So this is a decorative ring of choux pastry filled with praline pastry cream.

First to make the pastry cream, or “crème pat” as I hear it said on the GBBO. I make the full recipe from the above mentioned cookbook with a few substitutes. I flavored mine with vanilla.

  • 4 cups milk (used 12 ounce can of evaporated milk with 12 ounces of water, topped off with the oatmeal milk from the fridge)
  • 2 eggs and 4 egg yolks ( I used the 6 egg yolks left over from making meringue for a Baked Alaska dessert for Christmas Eve)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk eggs and sugar. Add flour and mix well. Bring the milk and butter to a boil and then add the egg mixture. Simmer gently over low heat for 10 minutes. Dust with sugar and chill. Be sure to whisk frequently and temper the egg mixture with some of the liquid while cooking before adding it all so to avoid scrambled eggs. This makes a lot of crème pat. I apparently have made this before, or Son has, as there are notations for half of the ingredients written beside the recipe in the book.

I then proceeded to make the choux pastry from this same book. I failed to compare it to other choux recipes from other cookbooks. This called for a full cup of butter and 4 eggs. It cost me 5 eggs as one fell on to the floor. No other recipe calls for this much butter, not Jacques nor Julia. Perhaps it is a typo.

The pastry was tasty but very thick. It was more of a cookie than a pastry. It did not turn out well. It broke into chunks when I attempted to slice it to fill with the pastry cream. I have half this dough in the fridge and plan to roll it out into shortbread cookies as that is the consistency of the dough.

So the next day I went to my faithful Betty Crocker Cookbook and made cream puff pastry dough which I have successfully made before.

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs

Heat water and butter to boiling. Stir in flour and stir vigorously over low heat until it forms a ball. Remove from heat and beat in eggs all at once. Continue beating until smooth. Drop dough on ungreased cookie sheet in 1/4 cupful. Makes six. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35-40 minutes. Let cool. Cut off tops. Fill with pastry cream. Replace tops. Glaze or frost as desired.

I melted dark chocolate chips mixed with some chopped almonds and teaspoon of oil for the chocolate icing. Yummy!

Now what to do with all that Patisserie Crème I have left in my fridge?

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More Cookies

Butter cookies to be exact. This is from BakeWise by Shirley Corriher (2008). I thought I would try new cookies this year and these were described as “melt-in-your-mouth”. That sounded tasty.

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

This is a basic butter cookie. Cream butter, sugar, salt, and almond extract. Add egg yolks one at at time, then the flour. This gets rolled into a log, refrigerated, sliced, and then baked at 375 degrees F for 14 minutes.

In this book she has two of these butter cookie recipes. The difference is 1/2 cup sugar in the dough. The decorating/finishing is different as well. In the above recipe the logs get brushed with egg and rolled in course sugar. The second recipe has 1/2 cup less sugar in the dough and an indentation is made and filled with jelly.

I made the above batter and did both of the finishing touches.

For the recipes in this book the author talks about the science of the baking in a “What This Recipe Shows” section.

For my “What this recipe shows” is that 1) I did not get the dough mixed very thoroughly as butter spots kind of burned the edges on some, 2) I have difficulty evenly slicing cookie dough logs, and 3) I am not that big a fan of butter cookies. These were tasty enough but not my “go to” cookie of choice.

Oatmeal Bars

This is a recipe from The New England Table by Laura Brody (2005). Bar cookies are appealing because they bake all at once. I need to bake more cookies as the first set was eaten with early December family visit. I want to make another cookie tray. I had these ingredients so thought I would give it a try for cookies for the Christmas Eve feast.

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 1/3 cups brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 5 1/3 cups oats
  • 1 cup dry roasted peanuts, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 13 x 9 inch pan. Butter it well.

Cream the butter until creamy. Add brown sugar until light and fluffy. On medium speed add the corn syrup and vanilla. Then stir in the oats and peanuts. Press this into the pan and bake for 15-17 until surface is dry and edges have just begun to turn brown. Well, the surface was not dry. So I added 5 more minutes to the baking time. And then turned the heat off but left it in the oven for ten more minutes. The edges were brown but at least now the interior was set.

For the glaze:

  • 1 3/4 cups chocolate chips
  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter

Melt this and stir until smooth. I made about half of this amount with dark chocolate and chunky peanut butter. Spread this on the bars when they are somewhat cool. Cut when cool.

Thoughts: as I was making these I thought to myself that this is a super sweet baked oatmeal or an oatmeal-peanut butter fudge. They are very sweet and will stick to your teeth. Be sure to cut them into small squares. The recipe says 54. Hubby thinks they could be cut even smaller.

Sourdough Coffeecake

I made a sourdough starter using the Cook’s Illustrated (Sept &Oct 2016) instructions. Then I made sourdough bread from a King Arthur Flour sales flyer. None of these have pictures. Since one has to feed the starter each week and there is always the “discard” I decided to make a coffee cake. I used a recipe I had printed from 2005 from Allrecipes.com. (All rights reserved…so I am just posting a picture of the recipe. Someone has since posted a version on that website which is slightly different than this one.)

This is a lovely and flavorful coffeecake. I substituted walnuts and Craisins for the pecans and raisins. I did not make the glaze. This cake keeps well covered on the counter for a week. Then it was all gone!

Miscellaneous thoughts from my kitchen: I started watching GBBO again and am having to catch up several seasons. Sometimes it inspires me to bake new dishes. I want to try Macarons. I think the show refers to all cakes as “sponges” whereas I think of a sponge cake as different than a butter cake. The show I watched recently had the technical challenge to make a lemon meringue pie. Well, I did not make a pie, nor meringue, but a nice lemon curd which I attempted to put into puff pastry (store bought) hand pies. Paul and Pru would not be pleased!

Seasons blessings to all!

Chicken Tikka Masala

This is an adaptation of the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated October 2007 magazine. I had recently pulled out the season’s past issues and chose a few recipes to try. This is something I order if eating out so I thought I would give it a try. The ingredients are basic except for the Garam Masala but I have that spice mixture in my pantry. However, I found that I did not have ground cumin. And not being sure of what is an appropriate substitute I used a shake of Garam Masala. I also used chicken thighs instead of skinless chicken breasts, and left the thighs whole when serving. Serve over rice.

For the chicken:

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • about 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 7 chicken thighs
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger

Mix the first 4 ingredients and press into the chicken thighs. Refrigerate this for 30 minutes. Whisk the last four ingredients in a bowl large enough for dipping the chicken pieces.

Heat oven to broil. Put shelf about 6 inches from broiler. Prepare a foil-lined baking pan with wire rack. I sprayed the rack with cooking spray to help prevent sticking. With tongs dip each piece of chicken in the yogurt mixture and arrange on the rack. Yogurt should thickly cover both sides of chicken. Broil chicken for 10 minutes on each side until internal temperature registers 160 degrees F. There will be nicely charred spots on the chicken. I had thick thighs (ha ha!) so turned the chicken an additional time for about 5-10 minutes.

For the sauce:

  • 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger
  • 1 small dried red chile, seeds removed, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 Tablespoon garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 2/3 cup half-and-half

The sauce can be prepared while the chicken broils. Heat oil and cook onion about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic, ginger, chile, tomato paste, and garam masala, stirring for about 3 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. I simmered this until my chicken was done. Then add half-and-half and return to simmer. Remove from heat. Cover to keep warm.

For serving: Add hot chicken to sauce. I had to spoon the sauce on top of the chicken to cover. Put heaping scoop of rice on plate. Place chicken with sauce on top.

My thoughts: This recipe has a lot of ingredients and is a bit fussier than usual for me. But this made three meals for Hubby and me so was worth the time and fussiness. I have in the past bought a jar of masala sauce and poured it over chicken to bake. This homemade sauce is much tastier than that was. Plan at least one-and-a-half to 2 hours to make this dish.

Pork with mustard and capers

This is an adaptation from Jacques Pepin’s recipe (Essential Pepin, 2011). It sounded like a nice dish and I served it with mashed potatoes as suggested. He calls for brown sauce which is most likely a demi-glaze which I was not about to make. I substituted beef broth with some cornstarch. I used scallions instead of chives and siracha for the Chinese hot sauce.

  • 4 pork loin chops
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 teaspoon siracha
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup beef broth with 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 2 tablespoons snipped green parts of scallions

For the pork: sprinkle each side with salt and pepper. Melt butter in skillet and cook over medium heat 5 minutes per side. I used a cast iron skillet that fit the four pork chops nicely without crowding. Remove to platter or pan and keep warm in the oven at 150 degrees F. Cover with foil.

For the sauce: Add the onion and garlic to the skillet and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the wine and boil until only 2-3 tablespoons of liquid remain. Add the siracha, mustard, and broth mixture, reduce heat, and simmer for a minute or two. Add the capers. Pour the sauce over the meat, sprinkle with the green parts of the scallions, and serve.

And for leftovers: Cook up some egg noodles, sauté more chopped onion, add one cup of mixed vegetables, dice up remaining pork chops with sauce. Put all together and serve with topping of some parmesan.

Thoughts: very tasty. The pork chops were tender and moist. The sauce was flavorful with the Dijon and the capers. I had reduced the amount of the hot sauce so it had a bit of bite but not too much. Although the original recipe calls for 6 pork chops, The sauce was just enough for the four. I would double the sauce if adding more pork chops.

Pumpkin Bread

It’s been awhile since I have written but now it is bread baking season and I have no long camping trips planned. I have perused my cookbooks and have listed various dishes I want to cook and bake. Sometimes I find recipes of interest on the internet as well as other blog sites. I also have tried and true recipes that I repeatedly use. Not always of interest to write about. But then there is this…

I made Food Network Kitchen’s Pumpkin-Shaped Pumpkin Bread. It is a simple recipe to follow and you most likely have everything in your pantry. I did not make the Spiced Pumpkin Butter. Here is the link to the recipe: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/pumpkin-shaped-pumpkin-bread-8849742

My thoughts:

It is important to use kitchen twine. I found that I did not have enough, 3 lengths of 24 inches, so used a length of cheesecloth for the third string. I had to carefully tweeze threads out of the indentations after baking but no real harm done.

The instructions were to tie the twine not too tightly. I think they must have made several loaves to get the right tension. I think I should have not used the cinnamon stick to hold up the twine. I probably thought that the bread would rise enough on the second rise to make it taut. But it did not. Still, it does look like a winter squash of some kind!

My cinnamon sticks are apparently too old. It did not fill the kitchen with a wonderful aroma while baking.

I ate a wedge for breakfast and found it had good flavor and a dense texture, but not too dense.

This was baked with a new batch of yeast packets. I had baked a pumpkin yeast bread earlier in the month but found that the yeast had gone past…disappointing because it was less than a year old and I had it stored in the fridge. So if you have a big batch of yeast in a container somewhere check it for life before investing it in baking bread.

Summer Salad: Nancy’s Niçoise

What to have for dinner? It was not quite so swelteringly hot as a few days ago and our pantry and freezer are full. We have a neighbor who has given us beautiful tomatoes and a dinner salad came to mind. I perused a variety of cookbooks, mostly French, to see what comprises a Salad Niçoise. Here is my version. With salads the amounts are not critical as it depends on how many folks are to be served.

For two servings I used the following:

  • one heart of romaine
  • one large tomato
  • 12 or so kalamata olives
  • 2 hard boiled eggs
  • 3 snack peppers, one red, two orange
  • 2 small potatoes, steamed
  • about 1/4 cup crumbled feta
  • one can albacore tuna

Divide ingredients and place pleasingly on the plates. I mixed up a simple Dijon vinaigrette for the dressing finishing with a bit of freshly ground pepper and salt.

Summer Salad: Warm Bean and Bacon

More cooking with Jacques! So salads are not just greens in dressing. This recipe sounded interesting and as I had most of the ingredients on hand I made it.

  • 1 can (15 ounces) small white beans, drained
  • about 2 ounces of bacon
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley or 1 tablespoon of dried parsley
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons malt vinegar (I ran out of balsamic)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Fry up the bacon in cast iron skillet and then add the onion and garlic. Add the beans and stir to warm. Blend the rest of the ingredients together and toss together. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Fresh parsley is better than dried. I was able to add fresh parsley to the leftovers. This would be fabulous with fresh spinach mixed into it. It was yummy. And a few days later I mixed up the dressing by itself to use with a green salad.

Summer Salads: Garlicky Romaine

I could call this “cooking with Jacques” except this did not call for any cooking, except for the brief sautéing of the croutons. My Jacques Pepin Essential Pepin cookbook has lovely ideas for salads. What are salads but tossing oil and vinegar with greens? And a few other raw vegetables…and much more! Our go to salad greens are romaine lettuce and baby spinach.

I had all the needed ingredients for this “garlicky romaine with croutons”. Apparently in the spring I made homemade bread all of which we did not consume. I am of the school of thought to not waste food so I cut the remaining bread into crouton-sized cubes and froze them. Now I have the perfect recipe for them.

  • 3 Tablespoons oil
  • 2 1/2 cups 1-inch pieces “stale country bread”

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet; cast iron works well here. When oil is hot add the bread and sauté for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally to turn the cubes. Although at first I thought this was too much oil, it worked out very well for the 4 minute sauté.

  • 1 tablespoon crushed garlic; I used minced garlic from a jar.
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon mustard; Jacques calls for grainy mustard. I used spicy so as not to have three opened jars of mustard in my fridge.
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

I mixed the dressing ingredients in a small jar. I used half to dress the heart of romaine that I put into the bowl. We added a generous helping of Romano cheese as well. Romaine seems to call out for parmesan or Romano cheese in our household.

This is a tasty garlicky dressing. I was able to use this salad for two meals without making more dressing or croutons. This makes sense in that the recipe says it serves four.