(Mint) Cream Puffs

IMG_6543After voicing concerns about the relative difficulty of making eclairs (some might say “whining”), a few friends recommended making cream puffs instead. Same general concept, but much less aggravation. They were absolutely right. There’s no pastry cream involved. There’s no need to break out the piping bag and strive for uniformity when portioning out the dough. And, perhaps most importantly, there’s no sink full of dishes once completed. Total time from start to finish? About and hour. As a man who needs at least one nap a day to function properly, that’s important.

I made them with a mint whipped cream because the combination of chocolate and mint is awesome, but you can forgo that and just use the regular ol’ variety if you’re boring and hate good things.

INGREDIENTS

For the Pâte à Choux

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup whole mile
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 eggs

For the mint whipped cream

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

For the ganache

  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream

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DIRECTIONS

For the puffs (makes about 12)

  1. Listen to this song, ’cause it’s awesome.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a medium pan over medium heat, whisk together water, milk, butter, sugar, and salt and bring to a simmer.
  4. Remove from heat and add the flour all at once. Using a wooden spoon, mix until the dough begins to pull from the sides of the pan.
  5. Let sit for about 5 – 10 minutes.
  6. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until incorporated. Initially, it’ll look like the dough is curdling. Keep at it. It’ll eventually smooth over.
  7. Drop 2 – 3 tablespoon balls of dough onto prepared cookie sheet about 3 inches apart. I used two-tablespoon a cookie scoop. If you feel like needlessly complicating your life, using a piping bag and make them pretty.
  8. Bake for 10 minutes. Drop temperature down to 350 and bake for another 25 minutes (turn off your oven at the end).*
  9. Remove from oven and, using a knife, cut a slit in the top of each puff allowing the steam to escape. Transfer to a wire rack.
  10. Let ’em sit for about 10 minutes before cutting (or pulling) apart to make top and bottom pieces.

For the mint whipped cream*

  1. While your puffs are baking away, bring water and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan (your basic simple syrup recipe). Add mint and cook for about 2 – 3 minutes moving constantly.
  2. Remove from heat and strain into a bowl (use a coffee filter to ensure there are no errant bits of mint). Refrigerate until cool.
  3. Combine heavy cream and mint simple syrup in a large bowl. Using a hand mixer with the whisk attachment, mix until thick (hard peaks should form).

For the ganache

  1. In a microwave safe bowl, combine cream and chocolate chips. Microwave in 30 second increments, mixing between each time, until smooth. Allow to completely cool.

Cream puff construction

  1. Layer the bottom halves with whipped cream and gently replace their tops.
  2. Drizzle with chocolate ganache.
  3. Serve immediately, but not before taking a picture to send your mom.
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Mini Éclairs With Raspberry Cream

IMG_6523My French is a little rusty, but I think éclair translates to: “Pain in the ass to make. Seriously, they take three hours, make a mess of your kitchen, and aren’t worth the time required. If you’re in the mood for one, just go to the bakery. Sheesh.” Or something like that.

They taste pretty excellent, but no. Just no. I’m including the recipe, but I’m not kidding when say that this juice is just not worth the squeeze. You’ve been warned.

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INGREDIENTS (Coming at ya from Frosting and a Smile)

For the pastry cream

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons raspberry extract
  • 6 – 8 drops red food coloring

For the ganache

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

For the Pâte à Choux

  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 egg whites

DIRECTIONS

For the pastry cream

  1. In medium mixing bowl, whisk together egg yolks, cornstarch, 1/4 cup of sugar, and salt.
  2. In a saucepan over medium-low heat, mix together half and half until it begins to simmer.
  3. Slowly add milk mixture to egg mixture (a little at a time) and whisk until smooth.
  4. Return to saucepan and, stirring continuously, cook over medium-low heat until it thickens to a pudding consistency.
  5. Strain into a clean bowl and add butter, raspberry extract, and food coloring. Whisk until evenly smooth.
  6. Cover with plastic wrap (pressing the wrap directly onto the cream) and chill for 2 – 3 hours.

For the ganache

  1. Heat heavy cream in small saucepan until it begins to simmer.
  2. Add cream chocolate (which will hopefully be in a bowl) and let sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Add vanilla and mix until smooth.
  4. Let that stuff sit while you’re making a mess of your kitchen your mini eclairs.

For the Pâte à Choux

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium-ish pan, combine the milk, water, sugar, and butter and, over medium heat, bring to a simmer.
  3. Add the flour all at once and mix until it forms a ball and begins to pull away from the sides.
  4. Remove from heat, add the vanilla, and add the eggs (one at a time) until fully incorporated.
  5. Pipe 2 – 3 inch “blobs” of dough on baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes before dropping the temperature to 350 and baking for another 30 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven and, using a knife, poke a whole in the end of each one.
  8. Let ’em cool.

Eclair construction

  1. Dip each eclair in ganache and return to baking sheet to completely set.
  2. Using a piping bag and your favorite tip, fill each eclair with pastry cream.
  3. Store in the refrigerator before bringing them to your co-workers.
  4. Spend an hour cleaning your kitchen because you’ve used every pot you own to make these things.
  5. Vow to stick to cookies.
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Tiramisu Brownies

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During my trip to Italy a few years ago, I made it a personal mission to eat as much tiramisu as humanly possible (when I wasn’t pretending to like wine). For a somewhat reformed fat kid, this particular dessert is the bee’s knees. Chocolate, cheese, cookies…come on now. So, when I was figuring out to do with all the espresso I had left over from last week’s cookie, it was a natural choice. And, since I have a tendency to needlessly complicate everything—a few ex-girlfriends can attest to this fact—I figured I’d incorporate a brownie somehow.

Unsurprisingly, this isn’t some revolutionary idea. “Tiramisu Brownies” yields close to a million results with Google. However, my focus group/co-workers straight up housed these, so there’s no reason to continue the search. Not that I’d mind if you did. There are worse ways to spend your free time than trying out different brownie recipes.

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INGREDIENTS

For the brownie (slightly tweaked from the recipe found on this here blog)

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

For the tiramisu (slightly modified from Full Fork Ahead)

  • 1 package ladyfingers
  • 1 cup espresso, cold
  • 8 0z. cream cheese, softened
  • 8 oz. mascarpone cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 egg whites
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

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DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a 9″ x 13″ baking pan. You can either lightly grease it or line it with parchment paper. I go with the latter because it makes it easier to remove.
  2. In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the butter.
  3. Add the sugar, eggs, and vanilla and stir until smooth.
  4. Add the flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder and stir until smooth.
  5. Spread batter (save for 2/3 of cup) on the bottom of the baking dish and smooth over with a spatula.
  6. Place the lady fingers on top of brownie batter and give ’em a gentle push. This should take up the whole package.
  7. Using a brush, coat the ladyfingers in the chilled espresso. Use the whole cup and make sure those biddies are saturated.
  8. Using a hand mixer on medium, combine cream cheese, mascarpone, sugar, egg whites, and vanilla. About 2 – 3 minutes should do it.
  9. Spread the cheese mixture on top of the lady fingers. Smooth over with a spatula.
  10. Drop the remaining brownie batter willy nilly on top of the cheese and use a toothpick to swirl.
  11. Bake for 50 – 55 minutes until the edges of the brownie being to brown and pull away from the pan.
  12. Remove from oven and allow to completely cool on a wire rack. This can take like 3 hours cause these are thick.
  13. Cut and serve.*

*Pro Tip: Using a slightly heated knife makes for cleaner cuts. You can either run it under some hot water or, if you’re feeling dangerous, hold it over the flame of your stove for a bit. Big ol’ thanks to Rachel Flatley and Jessica Craig for cluing me into this bit of info.

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Chewy Espresso Toffee Chip Chocolate Cookies

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Most espresso cookie recipes out there call for espresso powder in minimal amounts. Even then, it’s primarily used as a way to enhance the taste of the chocolate…not as a flavor in and of itself.

Basically, they’re dirty, dirty liars.

If I eat something with an ingredient as part of its name, I want that ingredient to be noticeable. In an effort to do just that, I did a little experimenting with finely ground espresso. And, since coffee goes well with toffee (at least in the rhyming sense), I decided to throw some of that in there too. The results were a rich, chewy, chocolatey cookie that could never be accused of false advertising.

INGREDIENTS (modified from Back To Her Roots)

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons finely ground espresso
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 + 1/4 cup butter (2 + 1/2 sticks), softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 + 1/2 cups toffee chips

DIRECTIONS (makes 30 cookies)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, espresso powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In separate bowl, use a hand mixer and beat butter and sugars until creamy.
  4. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until fully incorporated.
  5. Beat in flour mixture, a little at a time, until fully incorporated.
  6. Fold in toffee chips until evenly distributed.
  7. Drop 2 tablespoons of dough about 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheet. I used a 2 tablespoon cookie scoop because I’m a stickler for uniform cookies. It’s really the only bit of control I really have in life.
  8. Bake for 12 – 14 minutes.
  9. Remove from oven and allow to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
  10. Disappoint your mom by giving them away because you’re respecting her wishes and not allowing her to eat sugar.
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Chocolate Banana Nut Bread

banana1No surprises here, but my kitchen counter was home to a bunch of overripe bananas. I could solve the problem once and for all by just buying fewer of ’em, but A) $.29 a pound is too good a deal to pass up and B) I am fighting tooth and nail to avoid becoming this guy. Fortunately, they’re as many uses for ’em as there are women uninterested in dating me (a quick Google search brings up over 9 million results for “banana bread recipe”). So, at least there’s no danger of running out of ideas with what to do with the browned, radioactive, potassium bombs that have a shelf life of approximately 18 minutes.

This particular version of banana bread comes from All Recipes. A few things were added—and a few were removed—but the changes weren’t so dramatic to render this as completely new and unique. So, givin’ credit where credit’s due.

INGREDIENTS (stolen and tweaked from All Recipes)

  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 bananas, mashed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

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DIRECTIONS (makes about 12 slices)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and cocoa. Set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, use a hand mixer set on medium to combine butter, sugar, and eggs until smooth.
  4. Add mashed banana and vanilla and mix until smooth.
  5. Add flour mixture and mix until just combined.
  6. Add buttermilk and mix until smooth.
  7. Fold in walnuts.
  8. Transfer batter to prepared loaf pan and bake for 60 – 65 minutes.
  9. Remove from oven and allow to sit for about 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to completely cool.
  10. Slice and serve (if you’re feeling extra “I don’t give a damn” this goes incredibly well with vanilla ice cream).
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Coconut Macaroons With Dark Chocolate

FullSizeRender(What’s up Jackson Pollock?)

When it comes to food, the Tribe certainly knows what they’re doing. This particular recipe might have the highest risk vs. reward ratio of anything out there. They’re incredibly easy to make and they turn out wonderfully. They’re similar to Peanut Butter Buckeyes in terms of the process, but the dough (batter?) is much easier to work with and the end result is killer. To be honest, I didn’t even try them. However, everyone who did was full of praise. Of course, the could have been lying, but these things got snapped up with a quickness when I put them out over the weekend so I’m inclined to believe they’re as good as they look.

And, if gluten-free is your thing (“Ever since I stopped eating gluten, my kids started talking to me again”), you can eat these without issue.

INGREDIENTS (slightly modified from Once Upon A Chef)

  • One 14-ounce bag sweetened shredded coconut
  • 7/8 cup (7 fl oz) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 large eggs whites (room temperature)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 ounces dark chocolate
IMG_6369(I feel no guilt for using Max for this image. Little dude is spoiled.)

DIRECTIONS (makes 22 macaroons)

  1. Put on an appropriate soundtrack.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In large mixing bowl, combine coconut, condensed milk, and extracts.
  4. In separate bowl, whisk together egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. Using room temperature eggs makes this process go much quicker (learned that this time around).
  5. Fold egg whites into coconut mixture until evenly distributed.
  6. Using a #50 cookie scoop (about a tablespoon and a quarter), portion out macaroons on prepared baking sheet. Using a cookie scoop helps make these uniform.
  7. Bake for 25 minutes until tops are golden brown.
  8. Remove from oven and allow to completely cool on a wire rack. Hold onto your parchment lined baking sheet.
  9. Melt chocolate in a double boiler over medium low heat.
  10. Dip the bottom of each macaroon in the melted chocolate and return to the baking sheet.
  11. Dip a fork in the remaining chocolate and drizzle (meaning shake) on top of the macaroons.
  12. Allow to completely cool so the chocolate has time to set.
  13. Mazel tov!
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