Monday, December 18, 2017

Croquembouche!

Croquembouche is French, meaning, "crunch in the mouth".




Twenty years ago I catered functions where I designed menus with this as the spectacular
dessert.

It is a very easy confection but does take time and planning.

(I have my Christmas Pavlova in the oven so I thought I would work on this post.  The Pavlova
will be the next post!)

First you make cream puffs out of pate a choux dough and let them dry out and set up. Pate a choux
is a French light pastry dough (oh, those French!) used to make eclairs, beignets, gougeres, churros,
cream puffs, Paris-Brest.....

Recipe:

In a small saucepan, place 1 cup water, 1 stick unsalted butter, 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar,
and 1/4 teaspoon table salt.  Bring to a boil.  Have measured out 1 cup all purpose flour and dump
that into the pan all at once and start stirring.  The mass will leave the sides of the pan and gather
into a ball.  A film will form on the bottom of the pan. (I used to always sieve my flour so there
would be no lumps)

Transfer the dough to a mixing bowl.  I usually let it rest for just a few minutes so it is not quite
so piping hot.  Have 4 large eggs at room temperature and add one at a time, beating on medium
speed and  allowing each egg to become fully incorporated before adding the next egg.

You are now ready to pipe or spoon the dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets.  You can use
two spoons to drop the dough onto the baking sheet and then using your finger dipped in water or
egg, smooth the tops of the doughs.  Or you can neatly pipe the dough with a pastry bag and tip to create your puffs, again smoothing the tops.  Allow about 3 inches between the puffs.

Bake the puffs at 425 degrees F. for about 20-30 or 35 minutes.  The size of the puffs will determine
the length of baking time.  The puffs should be golden brown, nicely puffed and hollow.  I used to
always pick one puff out of the oven quickly and place it close to my ear.  If I heard it sizzle, I knew
the fat was still "cooking" so it would go back into the oven for a few more minutes.














The next step is to fill the cream puffs.  You can fill them with whipped cream, pastry cream,
chocolate mousse, lemon mousse......whatever you like.

Then you get to the caramel sugar!  Many recipes will state that it only takes 10-12 minutes to
bring your sugar to the caramel stage.  That can set you on the road to frustration!  You will
need at least 20, possibly more, minutes so do not despair.

Some recipes will call for only sugar and water.  I use sugar, water and light corn syrup.  I also
do not stir the mixture at all, after the initial stir to mix.  I do swirl the pan, however.  Most recipes
will call for brushing down the sides of the pan so the sugar does not crystalize.  I do not find this
necessary.

Recipe:

In saucepan, place 1 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup light corn syrup and 2/3 cup water.  Stir to only mix the
ingredients and then put the spoon away and do not stir again.








Once the sugar has turned amber, plunge the pan into an ice cold water bath to stop the cooking
process.  Now you will have a dark syrup and you are ready to "glue" your cream puffs.

Using a cake round or a plate, dip the cream puffs and place in a circle and then build on that
to create a cone-like pyramid.  The caramel will keep each cream puff in place once it has been
dipped and placed.




For fun, you can add raspberries, strawberries, etc. to your pyramid.  You can also drizzle chocolate
over the cream puffs prior to dipping in caramel.

Then for the most fun ever, use a fork and swirl the caramel around your croquembouche, creating spun sugar.  This is absolutely gorgeous and is the great finale!

I do hope you will try this and let me know how it turns out.  This is a great dessert for the Christmas
Holidays!


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Cake Roll, Swiss Roll, Jelly Roll

This one is for you, Megan❤️

In Europe they call it Swiss Roll.  Americans tend to call it Cake Roll.  The French call it roulade. And then there is the "cousin", the lovely sponge rolled with a jelly filling.

The cake roll (or Swiss if you prefer), is the basis for the classic French Christmas Dessert,
Buche de Noel.  Pumpkin Rolls are now included in most Thanksgiving menus.

In truth, you can bake any flavor and fill with a myriad of fillings.

One of our most popular was a classic light, airy spongelike cake filled with our own lemon curd.
This was truly to die for!

There are a few key points that will make this a 'piece of cake' rather than a disaster waiting to happen!

1.  Make sure the eggs are at room temperature.  Eggs with no refridgerator chill will beat up
much better.

2.  Spray a jelly roll pan.  Line with parchment and spray again.

3.  After mixing cake batter, pour evenly into prepared pan.  Knock the pan a few times to
release  bubbles in the batter.

4.    Do NOT overbake.  Press finger lightly into cake to make small indent.  It will spring right
back  if properly baked.  Remove from oven immediately.  Remember, foods continue to cook
even though heat source is removed.
   
5.  Do not attempt to bake a box cake for a cake roll.

6.  Lay a linen tea towel on counter and sprinkle liberally all over with 10-x sugar.

7.  Remove cake from oven and let rest 3 minutes.  Run a knife around edges to loosen.
Flip cake onto prepared tea towel.  Remove parchment from cake.  Beginning at short end,
start to roll cake.  Set aside while you prepare the filling.

8.   Unroll tea towel.  Spread desired filling on cake, leaving a border at ends.  Re-roll the
cake and proceed to frost or decorate.




Monday, August 28, 2017

Everything is just Peachy!


I had lunch today with a friend of many years and she mentioned to me that I was remiss in my blog postings....that she enjoyed them so much, she re-read them!  What a kind and wonderful thing to say!

As some of you may know (who follow me on Facebook) this has been a busy busy time, both with family events and produce events!!!!

With family, we had a delightful visit in Spring Lake, New Jersey with our daughter Barbara's lovely in-laws, Diane and Steve; we had a wonderful celebration of the B O B's birthday, followed by our granddaughter Katie's seventh birthday, our Tina's graduation from Nursing School (a major, major accomplishment!!), my Mother's 90th Birthday, and our youngest grandchild's fourth birthday (sweet Baby James!).  It was a wonderful summer with all the family gatherings!

With produce from our local farmers, it has been a mad dash to acquire all the Summer Rambo apples to make the much-beloved applesauce for the family.    I also garner all the peppers (3/$2.00) I can so I can roast them and freeze them for the winter antipasti, plus the wonderful eggplant, which I fry and freeze for Eggplant Parmesan, to be used all winter, in a snap!!!!

And then there are the magnificent peaches!!!!!  Is there anything more wonderful than a fresh,
juicy, ripe peach!?????

I have been making peach cobblers, peach breads, peach pies!!!!!

The Peach Bread was posted in August of 2012 if you would like the recipe.

I don't think I posted the Peach Cobbler so here is that recipe:

Ingredients:

1 stick (4 oz.) sweet butter, melted
1 cups plus 3 T. granulated sugar, divided
1 cup all purpose flour (low protein)
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 cup milk
1 t. vanilla
3-4 ripe large peaches, peeled, pitted, thinly sliced
1/2 t. cinnamon

Method:

Heat oven to 375*.

Pour melted butter into a 2 quart baking dish (11 x 7 or 8 inch square).  In a mixing
bowl, combine 1 cup of the sugar, the flour, baking powder and salt; stir to blend.
Stir in the milk and vanilla until blended.  Pour the batter over the melted butter.
Toss the peaches with the remaining 3 T. sugar and 1/2 t. of cinnamon.  Arrange the
peach slices over the batter (careful not to stir).  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until
a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.  The top will be browned and the
cake will begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.  Serve warm with a little heavy cream
or a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.   Serves 6.   Yum!!!




Hope you have an opportunity to prepare this easy, wonderful tasting dish!!!!








Monday, July 24, 2017

Acts of Kindness

Today someone performed a most extraordinary act of kindness to me.

I was totally surprised, touched and very grateful.

Most of us never realize to the extent that what we may say or do could (and does) impact
others in many ways.

Just a random smile could lighten the burden of someone who is having a really bad day.

From now on, I am going to make a concerted effort to carry through with any thoughts I
have of doing something nice for someone, sending a card to cheer someone up, or perhaps
taking the time to visit with someone, rather than meaning to but not doing so.

I know how appreciative I am of being on the receiving end so I am certainly going to
"Pay It Forward" from now on.


Saturday, July 22, 2017

Panzanella, a Classic Summer Salad

Our local Farmer's Markets are in full swing now!
The Corn is so sweet, the tomatoes bursting with flavor, and in another week we will have
delightful cling-free peaches!  (nothing better than a juicy fresh peach!)

I am having school chums and their spouses to dinner next week and was giving our menu
some thought.

One of my favorite summer salads is Panzanella, a Tuscan Bread and Tomato Salad.  It
originated as a way to use up stale bread with the tomatoes.  However, you can add cucumbers,
peppers, onion, even mozzarella!

I use ciabatta bread and cut it into large cubes and then toast it in a 375* oven for about
20 minutes, til crisp and firm.  (this will prevent it from getting totally mushy when mixed
with the tomatoes, their juices and the vinaigrette)

Panzanella Salad

2 lbs. ripe tomatoes, cut into chunks
2 t. kosher salt
6 c.  bread cubes, toasted and cooled
1/2 red onion, cut into chunks
1 c. cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks (optional)
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded, cut into chunks (optional)
1/2 green bell pepper, seeded, cut into chunks (optional)
5-6 oz. fresh mozzarella, cut into bite-size chunks (optional)
fresh basil leaves

(You can also use grape tomatoes, or a combination)

            Vinaigrette (My Addiction!)

             1 c. fresh parsley, chopped
             10 large fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
             3 garlic cloves, crushed
             1/4 c. good quality red wine vinegar
              3/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
             salt and pepper to taste
             drizzle of honey if too acidic

Salt the tomatoes in a bowl and let rest to create juice.  In bowl, put all other ingredients and
then add tomatoes, tomato juices and vinaigrette, tossing well.  Allow to rest about 45 minutes
before serving, tossing again to distribute juices.



I hope you have an opportunity to prepare and enjoy this wonderful salad (almost a
meal!)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Into the Middle of Summer!

It has been quite a while since my last post........I have been having such a good time!

Entertaining Friends for Luncheons and Dinners, spending time with the Grands, a lovely
visit to Spring Lake, New Jersey with #2 Daughter and Family and Lovely In-Laws, planning
many near-future Family Events.....just delightful!

Just recently we had Beer and Burgers with Friends.  Our Menu was Burgers with Brioche Buns,
Lettuce, Sliced Farmers Market Tomatoes, Sliced Onions, My Potato Salad, My Deviled Eggs, White
Farmers Market Corn on Cob, Grilled Zucchini, Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler (see previous post for
recipe).

Last night we entertained a childhood friend and her husband who are in the process of moving to
a newly constructed home and we had Red and Yellow Tomatoes with Fresh Mozzarella, Fresh Basil. Drizzle of Olive Oil and Splash of Kosher Salt, White Farmers Market Corn on Cob, Grilled Italian
Sausage with Peppers and Onions, Cheese Ravioli with My Parsley Basil Vinaigrette with Grilled
Asparagus, and Cherry Pie.

 The Cherry Pie!!!! It was to die for!  (I had two slices!!!!)

Here is the recipe:

Pie Crust Dough:  (from Ina Garten.....the very best)
12 T. very cold unsalted butter - grate or dice and chill or freeze
3 C. all-purpose flour
1 t. kosher salt
1 T. sugar
1/3 c. very cold vegetable shortening (I measure it and put in freezer til ready to assemble)
6-8 T. (about 1/2 c.) ice water

Mix the flour, salt and sugar and put into processor and mix til blended.  Then add the shortening
and butter and process 8-12 times, til butter is the size of peas.  With the machine running pour
the ice water into the feed tube and pulse the machine til the dough begins to form a ball.  Dump
onto a floured ball and roll into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

I find this dough actually yields 3.  I just freeze the third and am that far ahead of the game for
the next go-round.

I hate to state the obvious,  but you do know to roll from the center out and just turn the dough,
right?  You don't beat the dough to death and keep rolling all over the place.  The more you
handle dough, the tougher it will become. Center out, center out....move dough, center out....
sort of a mantra!

A fun lattice approach is to create your round and then put it onto parchment.  Place the parchment
into the freezer for just a few minutes.  Then, with your ruler and roller, mark off your strips.
Again, into the freezer for just a few minutes.  It is amazing how easy it becomes to create the
lattice!  Just takes a few moments and with such ease!  Back into the freezer and you have the
perfect lattice!  Invert onto your pie filling and then crimp your edges!

Cherry Pie Filling:

Balaton Cherries (from Farmers Market, season is a two week period!!!), 1 quart, pitted (4 c.)
1/8 t. table salt
1 cup sugar
4 T. Quick-Cooking Tapioca
1 t.  Mexican Vanilla
1-1/2 T. unsalted Butter

Preheat oven to 425*.  Place bottom crust in pie pan and brush with egg white (creates barrier to help prevent soggy crust with fruit pies).  Place in fridge to keep cold.

Mix Cherries and let rest for 15 minutes while you roll top crust or lattice.

Spoon Cherry filling into pie pan.  Top with Crust or Lattice.  Brush with Egg White.  Sprinkle with
Baker's Sugar. Place pie pan on baking sheet to catch and drips.
 
Bake at 425 for 15 minutes.  Turn oven down to 350* and bake additional 45-50 minutes.  Filling should be bubbling over and crust should be golden brown.

Baker's Tip:  Glass Pie Pans bake the best pies!!!!










  


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Spring into Summer!



This  has been a most enjoyable Spring!

Having our beautiful Family all together for the Easter Holiday was a wonderful start!

Two weeks after Easter I flew to Florida for five days to visit a gal pal and that was delightful!  The Gulf is gorgeous and they have a boat so I had the immense pleasure of sailing in Sarasota Bay!

Two weeks later I was in New York with the Grands, having a ball!
While in New York I took a Croissant class at Sur la Table (gift from Barby and Sean) and it was such fun!! I will post regarding that in the near future.

Now Memorial Day is here and the start of Summer!!

My daughter, Katie, recently said, "Mom, can you give me some quick meals...I need some new
ideas."

Summer is the very best time to keep it clean and lean!

Tonight we are having Gulf Garlic Shrimp over Rice with Steamed Fresh Green Beans.  Total time?
28 minutes!



I prefer Gulf Shrimp and wait til they go on sale.  These 16/20 shrimp were purchased yesterday at
A cost of $14.99/lb.  I only bought twelve of them.  (6 for each of us is plenty!)  After peeling and deveining the shrimp, I place them in a baking dish with  2 tablespoons of melted butter and healthy drizzles of olive oil.  I throw in 3 thinly sliced garlic cloves, dash of salt and pepper and sprinkles of Spanish Paprika plus a shake of red pepper.  Into a 425 degree oven for just  enough time for the shrimp to turn opaque.



Meanwhile I sauteed the rice in a tad of butter, turned it to simmer and steamed the green beans and, voila, a tasty dinner in just a few minutes.

(Yes, it is white rice and I know, I know, not good BUT every once in a while, we indulge.)

Katie  is fortunate in that her sweet James has a very educated palate at not even four years!

More quick menus to come.