Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Tea Time.

7:30pm. Tuesday night.

Inadvisably large bowl of frosted flakes.

The latest Netflix Original playing on the laptop that currently serves as both home office and home entertainment center.

Also, stretchy-waist pants + the book I tell myself I'm going to read as soon as I finish up one more episode.

Netflix Original of choice: Happy Valley. A somewhat violent British Crime Drama focusing on the life and struggle of Sergeant Catherine Cahill. Drugs. Mobs. Prison. Justice. Cahill fights all the demons you would expect from a drama of that sort. Does she find peace? Not really. Does she kick a@%? Most definitely. Does she make it back in time to put the kettle on for tea time? Always.

So sitting here in my sweats eating absurd amounts of cereal, I feel like... Tea Time.

But, like, cute. Dainty sandwiches and little scones and jams. However, because my Texan heart has little experience with tea party rituals, I've done some brief internet research. It's good to be informed.

Let's break it down:

Afternoon Tea (or Low Tea, Cream Tea)
Your typical high-society-style party. Around the 1800's this included aristocrats and royalty and was meant as a buffer between the morning meal and a late dinner. Available to all now, this type of tea is still a bit pricier and is usually saved for weekends and events like birthdays or celebrations.
Menu typically includes: tea, scones and clotted cream, sandwiches, assorted cakes and pastries

High Tea (or Meat Tea)
Originally the evening meal for working class folk. In the 1800's, this was often served at high tables (bar-style tables) at a pub following the workday. While afternoon tea is considered a snack or light meal, high tea is a denser meal meant to feed famished laborers after a long day. In modern times, this is basically just supper/dinner.
Menu typically includes: tea, cold meats, savory pies, fish, vegetables, baked goods

And then there's:

People just drinking tea 
People just drinking tea. Because they like tea.

So our beloved Sarg Cahill probably falls into that third category. I, however, am interested in this afternoon tea deal.

  • Cucumber* Sandwiches with Ham and Cream Cheese 
  • Passion Fruit + Ginger Mocktail with Citrus
  • Elcairs with Vanilla Cream and Strawberry Compote

You may notice that tea is missing from the tea party menu. (Other than liking a bit of irony in my posts), like my 5-year old self, I still just haven't been sold on it yet. Scones are also missing, but heck y'all. I'm tired.

*It's important to note that at any other time cucumbers would be regarded as abhorrent and found nowhere near my person. Or the Dough Puncher kitchen. But. These sandwiches were delightful.

Cucumber Sandwiches with Ham and Cream Cheese
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
Pinch garlic powder
Pinch italian seasoning (this seasoning grinder is much better than the typical jar)
2 cucumbers, skin on
4-5 slices, thinly sliced ham
8 slices white sandwich bread

1) Mix together the cream cheese, butter, garlic powder, and italian seasoning. Set aside.

2) Prep the cucumbers: using a vegetable peeler peel long, thin slices of cucumber- the wider the better. Try to get peels that have skin on both sides (to get the "striped" look you see in the picture above). Peel until you hit the seeds, then switch to the next side, until you've peeled 4 sides. Discard (or eat it, your call) the seeded remainder.

3) Prep the ham: slice the edges off your ham so you have nice and neat rectangles (most definitely eat the remainder).

4) For each sandwich: spread a thin layer of the cream cheese mixture on 2 slices of bread. On one slice, layer one rectangle of ham. Place the other slice of bread on top, cream cheese layer down. Spread another thin layer of the cream cheese mixture on top of your sandwich. Top with the thin slices of cucumber. Refrigerate for about 20-30 minutes (so your cream cheese firms up a little).

5) With a serrated knife, slice off the crusts and then slice into triangles (or whatever shape you'd fancy).

Passion Fruit + Ginger Mocktail with Lime

Ginger Syrup
via David Lebovitz
8 oz fresh ginger root
4 cups water
2 cups sugar

1) Thinly slice the ginger root, and and then roughly chop into smaller pieces.

2) Combine chopped ginger, water, and sugar in a medium to large pot and bring to a boil, making sugar all the sugar dissolves. Lower to a simmer and cook for about 45 minutes. Strain mixture with a fine sieve to remove pieces of ginger. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

*This syrup is the real deal. I had this worry that somehow I wouldn't be able to taste the ginger...I can now say - through completely cleared sinuses - that this is definitely no longer a concern. A+.

Put it together...
passion fruit juice/puree
ginger syrup (above)
1 lime or lemon, sliced into wedges
sparkling water or lemon/lime soda

1) In a glass with ice: fill 1/4 with ginger syrup. Add another 1/4 passion fruit juice/puree. Fill the remaining space with your carbonated liquid of choice. Squeeze in a bit of lime/lemon and serve.

Mini Eclairs with Strawberry Compote and Vanilla Cream

Pate a Choux 
1/2 cup butter, unsalted
1 cup water
3/4 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs, beaten

1) Preheat oven to 375F. In a medium saucepan, bring to a boil butter, water, sugar, and salt. Remove from heat, add flour all at once and stir with a spatula or wooden spoon until mixture forms a ball. Return to heat and continue to cook 1 minute.

2) Pour dough into a the bowl of a stand mixer. With the paddle attachment, mix for 2-3 minutes until slightly cooled. Gradually add eggs, mixing until homogenous after each addition.

3) Pour batter into a piping bag with fit with a french star tip. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, pipe straight logs about 3 inches long and about 1.5 inches apart. Bake in a 375F oven for about 15 minutes, until puffed and just beginning to brown. Crack oven open with a spoon (to release any excess moisture), and continue baking another 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Let cool completely before filling.

Vanilla Cream
2 cups whole milk (or to make it a little creamier, evaporated milk or half and half)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter
5 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1) In a medium saucepan, bring to a light boil milk, butter, 1/4 cup sugar. In a small bowl, whisk together yolks, 1/4 cup sugar, and cornstarch.

2) When the milk mixture comes to a boil, remove from heat and pour about half into the small bowl with the egg yolk mix. Quickly whisk until combined, then pour through a strainer back into the pan (this process is called tempering). Return to heat and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens. Remove from heat, add vanilla, and pour into a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, so that the plastic is touching the surface of the custard (to keep a skin from forming), and refrigerate until cool.

Strawberry Compote
1 lb strawberries, sliced and chopped
1/4 cup sugar

1) In a medium saucepan combine both ingredients. Cook over medium heat until the strawberries have cooked down by about two thirds and the syrup (formed by the strawberry juices and sugar during cooking) thickens - about 20 minutes. Be careful to stir often to prevent the compote from burning on the bottom.

Whipped Cream
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla

1) In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a whisk attachment, whip all ingredients together until the mixture reaches stiff peaks.

Put it together
1) Using a serrated knife, slice the top third off of each of your baked eclairs. Fill with a little strawberry compote, then top with vanilla cream.

2) Pour whipped cream into a pastry bag fit with a rose tip. Position the bag in your hand so that the wider end of the rose tip is down at 6 o'clock and the thinner end is up at 12 o'clock. Pipe a thin ribbon on top of each eclair using a side to side motion. Garnish with a thin slice of strawberry.

Bonus: giant cream puff ring made with extra pate a choux dough (I may have made a couple batches...) and pastry cream. Choux dough is SO adaptable y'all.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Pistachio Caramel Bonbons

How I survived the last work week, in 3 bullet points: 

  • REO Speedwagon. Specifically, the inspiration gained from Kevin Cronin's perm.
  • Devastating Greek sculpture. Specifically, Laocoon and His Sons. Brutal.
  • Chocolate. No specifics, all of it. 

First off, I literally have nothing to complain about. I work in a chocolate shop, for heaven's sake. I make bonbons and nosh on reject caramels all day. 

But sometimes...the mind wanders. It daydreams. Sometimes, I think about Kevin Cronin belting out that he'll keep on lovin' me, and I believe that beautiful icon. And wonder when our love child, Weird Al, last bothered to call his gracefully-aged father. 

Or sometimes, I think about Laocoon and sons struggling with Nagini, and feel connected to the greeks in a way that I never have before. They understood agony. That's the same wrestle I go through every time I remember the band camp tees and that sparkly retainer I used to wear everyday in high school, which will never be long enough ago. #ThnksFrThMmrs

But also, it dreams about the trusty, ramen noodle-crusted keyboard on which I am currently typing. Of my cyber home, Dough Puncher. Of the recipes to be written. The blogging to blog. 

So here we are. 

Party time. I hope you've got your Pandora set to the 80's Greatest Hits. That's where Kevin and I will be. 

On the menu, we've got some pistachio caramel bonbons. Essentially a molded candy with a caramel filling. Not quite as easy as whipping out a batch of chocolate chip cookies, but definitely a conquerable goal. 

So let's break this down. 

This type of candy requires a few special ingredients and equipment -

The last two are pretty self-explanatory, but let's get into the chocolate. 

What's the difference between regular chocolate from the grocery store and chocolate couverture?
Chocolate couverture is a higher quality chocolate that contains a higher percentage of cocoa butter. This allows for a higher sheen and snappier snap when the chocolate has been tempered correctly. Popular brands used in the industry include Valrhona, Guittard, and Cacao Barry. 

Nice. So what does "tempering" chocolate mean?
In short, a process of heating/cooling/then-heating-again that allows the feisty fatty acids in cocoa butter to form a stable crystalline structure. This stable structure of tightly-bound crystals gives a shiny appearance and is more resistant to heat and touch. A chocolate that is not tempered correctly contains unbound crystals that appear streaky, crumbly, and discolored. Picture that ancient, chalky Christmas candy in the back of your pantry - those unpleasant blotchy spots across the chocolate's surface are called "bloom" - a term used when those chocolate crystals get out of line. 

Right, so each chocolate has a specific tempering curve particular to that specific cocoa percentage and brand. So a dark chocolate (like the 64% we are using in our pistachio bonbon) will require a slightly higher temperature curve then a milk chocolate (say a 38% cocoa content) or a white chocolate (that contains no cocoa, but rather a mix of dairy solids, sugar, and cocoa butter).

Example curves (that remember, can vary from brand to brand):
Dark chocolate:  Melt to 120F. Cool to 82F. Reheat to 88F. 
Milk Chocolate: Melt to 115F. Cool to 80F. Reheat to 86F. 
White Chocolate: Melt to 110F. Cool to 78F. Reheat to 82F. 

In a future post I'll get more into home-tempering methods, but for now- this youtube tutorial:

Now, the recipe. 

Pistachio Caramel Bonbons
makes 21 bonbons (with some leftover, depending on the size of your mold)

Green Cocoa Butter, I used 'Green Crystal' cocoa butter from Chef Rubber
Edible Gold Leaf, I used Manetti brand 

Outer Shell
Cacao Barry Extra Bitter Guayaquil 64%, I bought from L'Epicerie, but can be found in a variety of places online. 

For the pistachio caramel ganache:
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon corn syrup
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup cream, heated to near boiling
1/4 cup pistachio paste 
1/3 cup dark chocolate (64% is great - but even basic semi-sweet chips will work here)
1/3 teaspoon salt

Decorate your mold (I used this one). Cocoa butter must be brought up to, and kept at, a temperature between 84-86 degrees Fahrenheit while decorating. (I use this infrared thermometer to make measuring temp easier.) (Also, you can laser-temp your entire house and room mates. It's great). You can apply the butter any way that strikes your fancy - for mine I did a quick finger swipe across the bottom of each cavity. Like finger painting. Super quick. You could also use a small paintbrush to get a similar effect, and cleaner hands, if that's more your thing. 

I applied the gold leaf after un-molding the finished bonbons. I use a small make-up brush (new and make-up free, please) to gently place small pieces of gold leaf where desired. Edible gold leaf is incredibly thin and fragile, so warning: no ceiling fans, no open windows, no fast movements. Just... don't even breath. One enthusiastic exhale and you've just blown, like, $15 on the floor. 

You create the outer shell of your bonbon using tempered chocolate. Some day in the future I may do a tutorial, but for now, let's watch the incredibly smooth Jacque Torres do this entire thing in less than a couple minutes, without getting a single drop of chocolate on his hands. 

*Also, the cutest pronunciation of "bonbon" I have ever heard. 

Filling time! 

1) Heat the cream (in the microwave is just fine) until just boiling. Set aside. 

2) In a medium-large saucepan (the caramel will foam up when you add the cream later in the recipe,  so use a pan with enough height for the caramel to rise during cooking), add the corn syrup, water, and sugar. Over low heat, stir ingredients with spatula until homogenous (being careful not to get sugar crystals up the side of the pan). Stop stirring, and let the mixture melt entirely into a clear syrup. Bump up the heat to medium, and continue to cook until the syrup reaches a medium-gold color- swirling the pan occasionally. 

*Important to note: this caramel contains corn syrup, a product developed with many uses, one of which is preventing sugar crystallization. In wet caramel recipes (recipes that use both water and sugar to create a syrup, as opposed to dry caramel that melts straight granulated sugar without water), it is incredibly easy to over-agitate the mixture, causing the sugars to recrystallize into an unfortunate, impossible mass. The addition of corn syrup in this recipe means you don't have to worry as much about stirring or swirling the sugar too much during cooking. As someone who has felt the pangs of crystallized-sugar despair, this means EVERYTHING. Ok. 

3) Remove golden sugar syrup from heat. Carefully add cream - the mixture will boil up and then settle again. Return the pan to medium heat, and whisk continually for about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. 

4) Immediately add unmelted dark chocolate, pistachio paste, and salt. Whisk until smooth. Pour mixture into a pastry bag and let cool to about 75-78F. A good test: place the bag against your wrist - if you can just barely feel some warmth you're good to go. 

PIPE filling into each cavity, leaving about 1/8 of inch headspace to cap the bonbon. Let rest an hour or two to set before capping. 

Cap 'em! 

Similar to the video above, ladle chocolate on top of each filled cavity, then use a spatula or bench scraper to scrape excess chocolate off the mold. Let set before un-molding

Un-mold. Check the bottom of the mold - you're looking to see that the chocolate has contracted away from the mold, and that there are no places where it appears the chocolate is still stuck (those areas will appear as darker splotches). If you have some candies that haven't completely contracted, place the mold in the fridge for 20-30 minutes. Releasing too soon could leave little release marks on the tops of your bonbons. 

Lightly twist the mold to release chocolates (similar to how you would twist an ice cube tray to loosen ice cubes). Then invert and lightly tap mold on counter to release the bonbons. Done! Store in a cool, dry place for up to 2 months. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

But y'all, Chicago!

So I live in Chicago.

In winter purgatory.

Where rational people move when they mistakenly think that mid-western winters will be a slight price to pay for the metropolitan experience. Clomping through those impossible snowy-ice combos that you can both slip on and sink into in one of the most incredibly efficient physical fails known to our species. It's a beautifully embarrassing thing to witness: the swift slide forward in one step and the downward, unexpected near face plant into that muddy heap the next. I've heard it's a great way to attract men, you know. That clutzy, doe-eyed, anti-feminist, "oh please sir, - no, no the sir in the sharp, fitted suit, thanks - oh sir, I just can't even support my own weight on these two bambi-like limbs of mine, will you please help me walk? I just can't seem to do it on my own. Oh my heavens, thank you!" It's a wonder I'm single, folks.

But onto more important things other than my ongoing antipathy towards the post-Christmas chill.

I live in Chicago! Despite the weather - which really is a slight price to pay - the city is genuinely lovely. Forget your West Side Story-esque visions of suited teenagers fighting in the street. Or possibly your cheesy Marky Mark studs and your Good Will Hunting Ben Afflecks (all of which are not really associated with chicago specifically, but it's all inter-city crazy anyway) - this city is cultured. This city is artistic. This city has a beach! Unique architecture, a river walk, a shore line that any Californian could mistake for an ocean, and enough restaurants to ensure you have enough blubber to make it through the aforementioned winter. And there's a giant ferris wheel. So my London obsession has been somewhat subdued. For the time being.

It's great.

Also in Chicago... my life, my love, and the source of my most recently acquired 5 pounds: The French Pastry School.

The best decision I've made to date. (I'm only 23, but this definitely beats the time during my undergrad that I ate beef jerky and brownies before skydiving).

A few of the projects we've worked on during our first two modules: Entremets and Wedding Cakes... 

1) The Chocolate and Hazelnut Mousse Cake. Aka, the "World Cup Cake", as it won the Pastry World Cup 2007.

Layers of hazelnut dacquoise, candied hazelnuts, hazelnut mousse, chocolate biscuit (pronounced "bis-cwee), chocolate mousse, and a chocolate glaze.

2) The Raspberry Silk Cake: almond dacquoise, feuilltine, white chocolate mousse, and raspberry gelee.

3) The Passion Fruit Coconut Cake: coconut dacquoise, passion fruit mousse, coconut mousse, and a  marbled glaze.  
Looks a bit like water color, doesn't it?


4) The 'Summer Love' Cake: lady finger sponge cake, vanilla bavarian cream, and a mixed berry gelee. Simple and elegant. Topped with fresh fruit and french macarons. 

5) The Croquembouche: the traditional French wedding cake. A tower of cream puffs assembled with caramel and topped with gumpaste flowers (made during the Wedding Cake module). 

Exams this week, and then next on the baking rainbow: tarts. Have a nice Sunday y'all.