Sunday, August 31, 2008

August Daring Bakers Challenge 2

The challenge for this month is Chocolate Eclairs by Pierre Herme. I have not made eclairs before and the August challenge is my first time making some. The challenge consists of 3 elements, the Pate a Choux or the Cream Puff Dough, Pastry Cream and Chocolate Glaze.

Having no prior experience to making eclairs or cream puffs, I was actually scared of making the eclairs especially after seeing that making it requires boiling the liquid ingredients first then adding the dry ingredients. I don't know when to add the dry ingredients, I don't know how the dough will look like afterwards and such concerns. I kept reading notes before attempting on making the eclairs but I guess experience is the best way to learn it. Also because of having no eclair experience, I followed the recipe to the tee.

I started boiling the milk, butter and water together on medium heat and once it got to a rolling boil, I added the dry ingredients consisting of flour, sugar and salt. Then I mixed it until smooth for 3 minutes while still on medium heat. Then I took it out of the heat onto the mixing bowl and beat it with paddle for 3 minutes until it was cool enough. I then added 5 eggs, one at a time, adding the next one only after the previous was well combined. Then that's it, that's my dough. I now piped the dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, about 3 inches long, 2 inches apart. I baked the eclairs at 375F for 7 minutes, and then after 7 minutes, I slipped a wooden spoon in the oven to keep it ajar, then rotated the pan when it was already in the oven for 12 minutes. I took it out after a total of 20 minutes in the oven.

Once taken out, my first batch lost its fluff, flattened out and got soggy in the middle. I was disheartened. I had never had such a baking disaster in the recent past. Nevertheless, the soggy eclairs were still very tasty. I was planning on leaving the eclairs for the day and give it a try some other time, but I can't get it out of my head. After an hour of reading about possible mishaps and thinking of what could have gone wrong, I was back in the kitchen for my second eclair attempt. I did everything all over again but baked it all throughout with the oven door closed all the time. It was at 375F for the first 7 minutes, and then I lowered it to 350F for the rest of the 20 minutes. Once baked, I turned off the oven, opened the door and let the eclairs cool there for 20 minutes. All the while, I kept checking if the eclairs will sink again to see where it will start to flatten again just in case I fail again. It didn't. I took it out after 20 minutes, transferred to a cake rack and cooled it completely. Here's how it looked like:

While the eclairs were cooling down, I prepared some mocha cream filling and chocolate glaze. Preparing these two went uneventful. I then filled the eclairs with the mocha cream filling and glazed the topped with the chocolate glaze. Once prepared, Manny and I sampled it and it was so delicious! Good thing it was at an odd hour that we ate it, or else we'll be skipping dinner again.

What's not to like? Eclair, good. Chocolate glaze, good. Mocha cream filing, good. :)

Useful notes:

  • In Baking911, Sarah Philips has a very informative page on eclairs (and pastries in general). See her Pastry101 page.

  • Pate a Choux, as I found out from Wiki, is "a light pastry dough used to make profiteroles, croquembouches, eclairs, French crullers, beignets, Indonesian kue sus, and gougères. It contains only butter, water, flour, and eggs. Its raising agent is the high moisture content, which creates steam during cooking, puffing out the pastry".

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Our Weekend Get-Together

We were busy the entire week and we never had the chance to celebrate Manny's birthday so last weekend, we decided to invite our friends over for a small get together. We haven't had a get together in a long while since most of the guys here went back home. We had our mini get together last Friday.

The past week, the earliest time that we get home was at around 9pm. We were never able to do anything else because we were so dead tired, and once home, we do get work calls from the night shift. We planned on going to the supermarket Thursday night so that we'd just be preparing come Friday. But then again, we were able to go home very late Thursday so we had no chance to buy stuff. I woke up very late Friday (at around 12noon) and we still needed to go to the supermarket. So we got moving at around 1pm, and I went to the dirty market for a while, and then went to my "suki" baking store (which I need not go to that day, but I can't help it!) and then off the the supermarket (which is a good 30mins drive from where we live). We were back at my place at around 4pm, and I invited people to come at 7pm. It's 3 hours away, and I have nothing edible yet (except for an unfrosted chocolate cake). And crammer me did not start cooking right away. I sat for a while, ate pistachio nuts, watched the olympics and before I knew it, it was almost 5pm. Hehe.

We started cooking at 5pm, Iron Chef style because of the time constraint. After 2 and a half hours of chaos, we started plating our dishes just in time for our first guests Daniel and Edsel to arrive. I was not yet done though. I needed to frost the chocolate cake and since I had no time, I ended up dumping the mocha buttercream just on top of the cake, hence the cake above. :) I was planning on frosting it nicely with pipes and sugar flowers but I never got the chance.

We had a wonderful dinner of spare ribs, mashed potatoes, pizza, fried dumplings, crab salad with desserts chocolate cake and cream cheese cupcakes, all homemade! We had a really hearty dinner! Afterwards, we just chatted the night away, had some wine and played xbox. Here's all of us.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Happy Birthday Kabibe!

It's Manny's birthday today. Here in Israel, or at least in our office, the birthday tradition is that you are supposed to bring your own cake and announce to everyone that it's your birthday and you have a birthday cake in your cube.
I made him a Cookie Dough Cheesecake. Instead of a graham crust, I made a cookie batter and pressed it at the bottom of the pan to serve as crust. I chilled the cookie crust while I prepared the filling. I then mixed up the cheesecake batter and poured it onto the prepared crust. After removing air bubbles on the poured filling, I then put the pan to a prepared water bath with boiling water and then baked it for about an hour. Cheesecakes are supposed to be chilled overnight or up to 24hours before unmolding so I left it wrapped in the fridge for a day. Once chilled properly, I then unmolded it and started to decorate it. I put some strawberry syrup first on top for flavor and then piped Vanilla Buttercream on top.

We brought it to the office today for his birthday. Some of our officemates came back for second serving and before we knew it, the cake was gone.

Happy birthday kabibe! I hope you had fun today. :)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Cream Cheese Pound Cake

This week had been hectic at work and by Thursday, I was starting to dream of a weekend where I would lazily be glued to my bed watching olympics all day. It kind of happened, but only because I was feeling sick. I didn't want to move all day yesterday even if I was already hungry. I also got weekend work calls which I was forced to attend to. I started feeling better late in the afternoon, probably after getting a lot of sleep and popping two mefenamic acids. As my day started (which was already around sundown), I decided to bake something for breakfast the next day. I had been fancying baking the Cream Cheese Pound Cake recipe from Sarah. I love yellow cakes, and the recipe had been getting rave reviews from those who tried it at baking911.

The recipe is a variation of the original Pound Cake recipe by Nick Malgieri. The recipe replaces some of the butter with cream cheese (yummy!). The batter was very easy to make, and after mixing all the ingredients, I poured the batter on a disposable baking foil because I don't have a real tube pan. The cake was supposed to bake for 45 minutes and when the cake starting to brown, the smell swirled in the kitchen. It smelled so delicious. After 45 minutes, the cake was done and here's how it looked like in the oven.

I was planning on frosting it with some strawberry or chocolate syrup once served in the morning. However, it tasted so good that we did not bother touching the syrups that we had on the side. It's really that good! The crumb and the texture of the cake is also very smooth and fluffy and would be ideal to make and layer. I would make this again soon on a round pan, and try decorating as this one is also sturdy. I still have some leftover slices, I'll be eating it for breakfast again tomorrow in the office with some really hot coffee.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

My Little Flip Flops

I had always been inspired by my flickr friends with their cute cupcake toppers but whenever I plan on making something creative, I end up with flowers. For one, I love flowers and how it looks picture perfect. Plus, I was never an artsy person so you could safely assume that my imagination is very poor. Haha. This time though just for the fun of it, I attempted making some flip flops and bags on my cupcake. After a few attempts of rolling again and again my gumpaste, I ended up with these cute messy stuff. LOL!

The cupcake itself was a totally different story. It was so yummy! These are White Vanilla Cupcakes filled with Strawberry Jam topped with Cream Cheese Frosting. This cupcake is Sarah Philip's White Cupcake Recipe and I just filled it with homemade strawberry jam with bits. It's my first time baking this cupcake recipe and it was a breeze to make. The cupcakes turned out to be very moist and fluffy, and it domed perfectly. The filling inside made it all the more tasty. The Cream Cheese Frosting is also a favorite. I top it on just about anything, from my chocolate cupcakes, to carrot cupcakes and it never disappoints. I brought it to my office today and it was a hit. Even the decorations got eaten!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Molten Lava Cake

Molten Lave Cakes or Volcano Cakes are usually mini cakes with gooey center which will flow like Lava once eaten. I wanted to make some fancy dessert for dinner today so I made some of these and planned on topping it with vanilla ice cream and strawberry syrup.

I made the cake at around 5pm and I was done after 30 minutes, including mixing the batter, baking the cake and surfing in between. :)
I used a 70% extra bittersweet Ghirardelli bar for the chocolate and it turned out to be really decadent. While I was not able to look for that perfect recipe in the web, I manage to interlace a few to be able to come up with something simple that is perfect for my taste.

Taking a photo of the cake was a challenge because the idea was that the Lave cake was supposed to be eaten hot so that the fudge in the middle would ooze. So after 2 minutes of taking the cake out of the oven, I topped it with Vanilla Ice Cream, Strawberry Syrup and shaved chocolates. As expected, the ice cream would melt because it was still hot, and photo had to be taken fast. Even if we're fast enough, the ice cream still melted. :) I also tried to slice the cake in the middle to take a photo of the gooey center, but ice cream just flowed on it so no chance of seeing it!

After taking photos, Manny and I ended up eating the cakes already (forget about having it for dessert!) and it was so good! It was really fancy, like something that you'd order from an expensive restaurant. The Vanilla ice cream complimented the chocolately flavor of the cake while the strawberry syrup provided a nice contrast on the taste. We intended to divide one cake but we ended up eating one each so we just decided to skip dinner altogether. :P