Monday, August 27, 2012

Daring Bakers August 2012: Pate a choux Swans

Kat of The Bobwhites was our August 2012 Daring Baker hostess who inspired us to have fun in creating pate a choux shapes, filled with crème patisserie or Chantilly cream. We were encouraged to create swans or any shape we wanted and to go crazy with filling flavors allowing our creativity to go wild!

I knew as soon as I saw this challenge that I would be using this to introduce my neighbors to my baking obsession. I could have made a half batch that would have still been too much for just me and my husband, but when you can take something like this over to the neighbors, what an introduction! They all looked at me kind of strange and asked "you just did this.... for no reason?" and I had to explain about the monthly challenges I do with the assurance that this would be the first of many food presents.

Bingley would like a swan, please.

I have never done pate a choux before, and looking at other bakers' pictures I think mine was a little runny. It didn't take too much time and wasn't all that difficult so I'm not too intimidated to give this another try. I think that these would be so much fun for baby showers or similar events.

Pate a choux
½ cup (120 ml) (115 gm) (4 oz) butter
1 cup (240 ml) water
¼ teaspoon (1½ gm) salt
1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm) (5 oz) all-purpose flour
4 large eggs

Line at least two baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper, or grease pans well.
Preheat oven to moderately hot 375°F/190°C/gas mark 5 .
In a small saucepot, combine butter, water, and salt. Heat over until butter melts, then remove from stove.
Add flour all at once and beat, beat, beat the mixture until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pot.
Add one egg, and beat until well combined. Add remaining eggs individually, beating vigorously after each addition. Resulting mixture should be somewhat glossy, very smooth, and somewhat thick.
Using a ¼” (6 mm) tip on a pastry bag, pipe out about 36 swan heads. You’re aiming for something between a numeral 2 and a question mark, with a little beak if you’re skilled and/or lucky.
Remove the tip from the bag and pipe out 36 swan bodies. These will be about 1.5” (40 mm) long, and about 1” (25 mm) wide. One end should be a bit narrower than the other.
Bake the heads and bodies until golden and puffy. The heads will be done a few minutes before the bodies, so keep a close eye on the baking process.
Remove the pastries to a cooling rack, and let cool completely before filling.

Take a swan body and use a very sharp knife to cut off the top 1/3rd to ½.
Cut the removed top down the center to make two wings.
Dollop a bit of filling into the body, insert head, and then add wings.

Vanilla Crème Patissiere

(Half Batch)

1 cup (225 ml.) whole milk
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
6 Tbsp. (100 g.) 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 into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Help us decide...

Okay, so this is a non-food related post. My husband and I are trying to decide on colors for the last two areas to be painted in our new house. We are planning on doing a painting extravaganza over Labor Day Weekend but are having a hard time agreeing on color choices.

Because he and I are stubborn and will just sit here and continue liking the color we like, I am enlisting your help. Here are two shots of the room (you'll have to excuse the iPhone photography and light sources.)

This is the front room/living room/ Music Room (so titled because that is where Dave teaches lessons). I do have to admit that he will have to look at this room more than me because he teaches in there and I just have to walk past it when coming downstairs. The room tends to be a bit dark because while it has nice sized windows, right outside is a porch with an overhang that blocks some of the outside light. 

The accent wall color would be going on the wall behind the couch. I made sure to get the colors of the dining room in the photo because I want to make sure that the color schemes help the rooms flow well together.

Here are the color schemes we are looking to use. I won't tell you which I prefer (unless you saw what I posted on Facebook yesterday) in the interest of avoiding "the wife is always right" contributions. Just honest opinions on what you think works better. Like I said, we are both stubborn and will just continue thinking our color scheme is the better of the two until someone comes up with a reason why one works better than the other. If you think they would both be fine, that's cool too, we just need some input.

Color Scheme 1:

Accent Wall Color: Behr Sequoia Dusk

Main wall color: Behr Peanut Butter

Color Scheme #2:

Accent Wall: Behr Plum Shadow
Main Wall Color: Behr Pebbled Courtyard

I like both schemes, I just think for this room one is probably a better fit. So, let me know either in the comments here or on Facebook, if you know me there. Thanks for the help! 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Daring Cooks August 2012: Cooking with Cornmeal!

Rachael of pizzarossa was our August 2012 Daring Cook hostess and she challenged us to broaden our knowledge of cornmeal! Rachael provided us with some amazing recipes and encouraged us to hunt down other cornmeal recipes that we’d never tried before – opening our eyes to literally 100s of cuisines and 1000s of new-to-us recipes!

Lots of colors in summer veggies.

We have been doing quite a bit of traveling this month and keeping busy getting ready for the next school year. I've done a couple weeks of beginning band camps- starting a room full of beginners on any instrument is always a fun time. We also added a dog to our little family. His name is Bingley (yes, after the character in Pride and Prejudice.) Bingley is about 2 years old and is just the biggest sweetheart. He is my new helper in the kitchen, stays by my side the whole time I'm in there, although I suspect he is hoping that I'll drop something as much as he is enjoying being near me. 

My new kitchen assistant. Love this dog!

I knew almost immediately after reading this month's challenge that I was going to use the cornmeal for a savory tart with summer veggies. It just sounded too good to pass up the chance to make! This was delicious, although the crust didn't work out exactly how I thought it would. The crust slid down the sides of the pan, but it still turned out okay. I'm glad that the challenge was cooking with cornmeal because I hadn't really ever thought about using cornmeal. My mom always used it when she made fried chicken, but I was not aware of the multitude of recipe options with cornmeal. I'll definitely be using it again!

Doesn't look like much on the plate, but it sure tasted delicious!

Savory Summer Tart
(adapted from Williams Sonoma)

Cornmeal crust:
1 cup flour
¼ cup cornmeal
½ tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
8 Tbs cold unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch pieces
3 Tbs ice water, plus more as needed

1. In a food processor, combine the dry ingredients and pulse until combined (4-6 pulses). Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the ice water and pulse 4-5 times. The dough should hold together but not be too sticky, if it is crumbly or not fully combined add more water, 1 tsp at a time, pulsing twice after each addition. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and shape into disk. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 

2. Preheat oven to 425℉. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 13 inch round. Transfer to a 10 inch cast iron pan, pressing the dough into the bottom and sides of the pan. Fold under the overhanging dough and flute the edges. Prick the sides and bottom of dough, refrigerate for 10 minutes. Transfer to the oven and bake 12 minutes, pricking the pastry with a fork if it puffs up. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. 

Tart Filling:
4 bacon slices, diced, cooked and fat reserved
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and cut into ¼ inch strips
2 ears of corn, kernels cut off cobs
4 oz green beans cut into ½ inch pieces
salt and pepper to taste
1 bunch chard, ribs removed and leaves cut into strips
1 ¼ cups half and half
3 eggs
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

3. Reduce oven heat to 375℉. To make filling, in a large skillet over medium high heat, warm 1 tablespoon of the reserved bacon fat. Add the onion, bell pepper and corn kernels and cook until the vegetables are just starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the green beans, salt and pepper and cook for 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. 

4. Warm 1 teaspoon of bacon fat in the pan. Add the chard and cook until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the onion mixture. 

5. Whisk together the half and half, eggs and salt and pepper. Stir in the bacon, cheese and vegetable mixture and pour into the crust. Transfer to the oven and bake until a knife inserted into the center of the tart comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.