Classic Cream Puffs

I’ve been intimidated by cream puffs for a while now. I thought they had to be extremely hard, because of the fluffy pastry and the cream filling.

I was so very wrong, and I am happy at how wrong I was! These cream puffs are actually quite simple, and that is a dangerous thing. With how easy they are to make, I have a feeling that I will be making many more of these bad boys.

The base of a cream puff is the pate a choux, or choux (pronounced shoe) pastry. It is a light, airy dough of (I believe) French or Italian origin. The dough is quite basic, only having a few ingredients.

I mean… it’s so easy! I was blown away by how easy the dough was. The hardest part (for me) was filling the piping bag with the choux pastry. I followed this recipe pretty much exactly, and just filled the cream puffs with a basic vanilla whipped cream. However, now that I know how easy choux pastry is to make, you might start seeing a lot of experimentation… eclairs, other cream puff fillings, the sky is the limit now!

Ingredients

Yield: Approx. 2 dozen cream puffs

For the choux pastry:

1 c. water
½ c. butter, cut into cubes
Large pinch kosher salt
2 tbsp. sugar
1 c. flour
4 large eggs, room temperature

For the cream filling:

1½ c. heavy cream, cold
3 tbsp. icing sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silpat.

To make the pate a choux, in a medium saucepan, combine the water, butter, sugar, and salt over medium high heat. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine, until butter is melted and the mixture is coming to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium, and immediately add the flour into the butter mixture, stirring constantly to make sure the flour becomes evenly incorporated. Continue to stir over medium heat until the dough begins to pull away from the sides and form a ball. This should take about a minute.

Take off the heat and transfer the dough into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Leave to cool for about 5 minutes (so you don’t cook the eggs when they are added).

With the mixer on low speed, add in the eggs, one at a time. Do not add the next egg until the previous one is completely incorporated. The batter will look smooth and glossy when it is ready after all the eggs have been added.

Fill a pastry bag with a large round tip, followed by the choux pastry. Hold the pastry bag over the prepared pans, and squeeze the pastry bag until you have a small round of dough about 2 inches wide. Swirl the tip and stop the pressure to finish piping, and continue until all dough has been piped, about 2 inches apart from each other. Pipe no more than 12 dough rounds onto a baking sheet. If they have little peaks on top, tap the peaks down gently with a wet finger.

Place one pan at a time (I learned the hard way – only cook 1 pan at a time in the center of your oven or you will burn the bottoms!) in the preheated oven, and immediately turn the heat up to 450°F. The increase in heat helps them puff more.

Bake at 450°F for 10 minutes, WITHOUT OPENING THE OVEN DOOR, then turn down the heat to 350°F for 13-15 minutes, until pastry is puffed and golden brown.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before filling.

To make the cream filling, combine the cream, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip together until stiff peaks form. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a small or medium round tip with the whipped cream.

Take a small paring knife, and cut small “x’s” in the bottoms of each cooled dough puff. Push the pastry bag with the cream filling into each puff, then squeeze a generous amount of whipped cream inside. Don’t overfill, or they might explode on you! You can feel the cream puffs expand slightly when they are full.

Sprinkle with icing sugar for garnish, and serve.

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Brioche Bread

Time for another foray back into the world of bread-baking!

Brioche is a classic French bread. Its main components are eggs and butter, and boy, is it rich. This baby has a whopping total of 9 eggs (including the egg wash egg), and a full cup of butter in the batter. It is not for the faint of heart.

I’ve been looking up recipes for Brioche for years. I’ve dabbled in the “Easy” the “Beginner’s” and “So-Good-It’s-Almost-Brioche” recipes. They’ve never been the winner for me.

This recipe has it all – I loved how easy it was to follow along. A lot of brioche recipes sounded quite confusing, or needed a ton of time, or just seemed too finicky. I mean, this recipe does take quite a bit of time. All of the prep time, the rising time, and the baking and cooling time adds up to quite a chunk of your day. I was always turned off by the amount of eggs that the dough uses.

But, I don’t know what happened. I was surfing around Pinterest last night, looking for a recipe, and BANG. This brioche recipe dropped into my lap. The picture pulled me in, and I read through Marta Antonia Rivera’s blog Sense and Edibility to find this recipe. 

Suddenly, brioche didn’t seem so daunting. And I had a sudden urge that YES, I want to make brioche.

So here we are.

Not going to lie, the recipe calls for bread flour, and I only have all purpose. I know, I know, bad baker, but we buy HUGE bags of all-purpose flour from Costco, so I can never quite justify going out and buying more flour than we already have. I bake a lot, okay?

Either way, I do not have the beautiful step-by-step pictures as the original recipe did, so if you want, head over to the site linked above and check out the step-by-step, and hopefully, brioche becomes easier to tackle because of today’s recipe!

I wish you could smell this bread through your computer screen. It is absolutely divine, and so soft! Trust me, go make this. It is completely worth the effort!

Ingredients

Yield: 2 loaves of bread

For the sponge:

¼ c. honey
2 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. active dry yeast
1 c. milk, warmed to 110°F
1 c. flour

For the dough:

½ c. sugar
4 tsp. salt
8 eggs (large)
5¾ c. flour
1 c. butter, cut into tablespoons

For the egg wash:

1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp. water

To make the sponge, pour the milk into a large mixing bowl. Add the honey and yeast to the milk and allow the yeast to bloom for 5 minutes. If the yeast does not get bubbly and foamy, it is dead. Open a fresh pack of yeast, and try everything again.

Whisk the flour into the yeast mixture. The sponge should look like a thick cake batter.

Cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel. Leave in a warm, draft-free spot (like the oven with the light turned on) to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

To continue making the dough, transfer the sponge to the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix in the eggs, sugar, and salt. After incorporating, the mixture should look like a smooth, thick batter.

Slowly add the remaining flour into the dough. If it gets too hard to incorporate with the paddle attachment, switch to the dough hook.

Once the flour is incorporated, add in the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time. Add the next 2 tablespoons only when the previous 2 are completely incorporated into the batter, and save the wrapper from your butter.

Once all of the butter has been incorporated into the dough, it should be soft, smooth, and pliable. Remove the dough from the bowl, and grease the bowl with the leftover butter on the wrappers. Discard the wrappers.

Return the dough to the bowl and turn to coat in the butter lining the bowl.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel, and allow to rise again in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Once the dough has finished rising, punch the dough down and turn out onto a lightly floured countertop. Divide in half.

Preheat oven to 375°F, and lightly grease two loaf pans.

Form the two halves of dough into logs roughly the same length as your loaf pans, and place them in the greased pans. Whisk together the egg and water of the egg wash and brush the loaves with the egg wash to prevent drying.

Place the pans in a warm, draft-free spot and allow to rise until the dough is about 1 inch away from the top of the pan. This should take 30 minutes to an hour.

Brush loaves again with egg wash, and if desired, cut the tops of the loaves into a decorative pattern.

Bake loaves in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.

Remove pans from the oven, and allow bread to cool in pans for 10 minutes.

Remove bread from pans, and allow to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing and serving.

Yorkshire Pudding

Yorkshire pudding is a classic British dish. It’s usually seen as a side dish served with a roast beef dinner.

Paul brought me home some braised beef and mashed potatoes from his job. He ate his when he got home, but I wanted to save it for lunch the next day. As I was contemplating this awesome meal, I had a really strong craving for Yorkshire puddings.

I have been contemplating making Yorkshire puddings for a long time. I found a Jamie Oliver video where he breaks down how to make proper Yorkshire puddings. After watching the video and keeping Jamie’s tips in mind, I found a Jamie Oliver inspired recipe.

These babies bake up in less than an hour, and are so good! I don’t have a popover or Yorkshire pudding pan, so I just used a muffin tin, and it still worked just fine.

They are also super easy to make, and only have four ingredients! If you have eggs, flour, milk, and salt, you can make these Yorkshire puddings!

Ingredients

Yield: 12 Yorkshire puddings

1 c. milk
3 eggs, at room temperature
4 oz. (approx. 1 c.) flour
¼ tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 450°F. In a 12-sectioned muffin tin, fill three of the muffin tins on the end with oil. Tip the muffin tin so that the oil flows into the rest of the sections. There should be about 1 centimeter of oil in each tin.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs together until lightly frothy. Add in the salt and milk, and whisk again. Add the flour, and whisk again until there are no lumps, and the batter coats the back of a spoon.

Let the batter rest for 15 minutes. Put the oil-filled muffin tin on a baking sheet, and place in the preheated oven while the batter rests.

After resting the batter, take the muffin tin out of the oven, and very carefully pour the batter into the oil-filled cavities. Use a spoon to minimize spills between muffin tin cavities.

Once the muffin tin is full, place back into the hot oven for 20 minutes, or until dark golden brown and puffy.

Serve immediately.

Fluffy Japanese Cheesecake

Hello lovelies!!

This is a recipe I’ve been wanting to make for a VERY long time, and I’ve finally gotten around to it! (Thank goodness being a teacher in the summertime!)

So, I love cheesecake. And in my downtime, I shamelessly watch a lot of YouTube videos, focusing mostly on Buzzfeed, and more specifically, their Tasty Videos. Now Buzzfeed’s Tasty (from what I can glean from watching their videos) is a bunch of cooks and chefs that pump out videos about FOOD. All the food. They do sweet, savoury, quick, slow, and all the food hacks you might ever need.

One of my favourite videos, and one of the most intriguing, was this fluffy Japanese cheesecake. It looked AMAZING. Tall, fluffy, soft, dark top, light sides…. It just looked great. So when I saw it, I was immediately interested because of Paul. You see, I love cheesecake. Love it. But Paul? Not so much. He is not a huge fan of the texture of cheesecake (but I still love him! Everyone has faults! Ha!), so I began thinking about whether or not he would like this specific cheesecake.

Because it has so much less cream cheese, and so much more meringue and air in it, I knew that the texture would be a whole different ball game. There was a chance I could be successful!

Oh my word, guys. The only thing I changed from the recipe was add about a half-teaspoon of lemon extract, because I wanted the cheesecake to have a little bit of flavour.

**Update: I made a Mocha version of this cheesecake, and it turned out beautifully! I followed the exact same base recipe, except added 2 tbsp. espresso powder in with the milk, cream cheese and butter mixture, and ½ c. of cocoa powder in with the flour and cornstarch. It turned out a luscious, chocolatey, hit-of-coffee confection. I’ve added a picture of this version below. **

Ingredients

Yield: 1 9-inch cheesecake

½ c. milk
4 oz. cream cheese (half a block)
7 tbsp. butter
8 egg yolks
¼ c. flour
¼ c. cornstarch
13 egg whites
2/3 c. sugar
½ tsp. lemon or vanilla extract (depending on flavour preference)
Icing sugar, for garnish.

Preheat oven to 320°F.

Line the bottom and sides of a springform pan or 3 inch tall cake pan with parchment paper. (If the parchment paper is curling badly, I’ll rub a TINY amount of margarine on the side of the paper that will face the pan edges.) Set aside. If you use a springform pan, wrap the bottom in 2-3 layers of aluminum foil to keep out the water.

In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, cream cheese, and butter on medium heat, and whisk until smooth and combined. Take off the heat and let cool.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks until incorporated. Slowly whisk in the cooled cream cheese mixture until incorporated and smooth. Sift in the flour and cornstarch, and whisk again, making sure there are no lumps. If using lemon or vanilla extract, add to the yolk mixture, and whisk again.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Slowly start adding the sugar, a little bit at a time, and whip on high until stiff peaks form.

Add ¼ of the egg whites to the egg yolk mixture, and fold in gently with a spatula, until you have a cohesive batter. Be gentle, because we want to keep the air we just beat into the batter!

Repeat with the remaining egg whites, until you have a smooth batter with all the egg whites combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Tap once or twice, gently, on the counter to pop any large air bubbles.

Use a baking pan or dish that is larger than the cake pan you are using, and place two paper towels on the bottom. Put the cake pan in the middle of the paper-towel lined pan, and fill with hot water, no more than an inch up the sides.

An easier way to do this is place the baking dish in the oven with the paper towels and your cake pan, then add the hot water into the pan while the oven door is open. This reduces the risk of hot water burns.

Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, then turn down the heat to 280°F, and bake for an additional 55 minutes.

Remove from the oven, and carefully, invert the cake onto your dominant hand to remove it from the pan, and take the paper off, then revert back onto a cooling rack.

If you are using a springform pan, just remove the foil and the sides. Leave the cake to cool before trying to invert and remove the paper from the bottom. (I learned the hard way. I tried the original way, suggested above, and deflated my cake a bit. 😦 Sad day.)

Sprinkle icing sugar on the top of the cheesecake for garnish.

Slice, and enjoy! Many people say to enjoy a slice of this warm or cool, so it’s your choice!

Chocolate Raspberry Charlotte Cake

Hello again!

I have had an extended absence from the blogging world, and for that, I am sorry! It has been a crazy last month and a half. Since my last post (almost a month ago! Agghh!) classes have ended, final exams are over, graduation is done, and I have been to, and am back from, Edmonton, where I marked diploma exams for a week.

After I got back from Edmonton, I got sick with a cold for a week, got better, went to Lethbridge, and began to clean out and move my classroom.

With all that insanity behind me, I decided to make something a little fancy before the insanity starts again. I have a friend’s wedding coming up, and I am making centerpieces and the cupcakes.

A charlotte cake is French in origin, usually with a sponge cake of some kind at the base, and ladyfinger cookies surrounding a fluffy smooth mousse filling.

I decided to make my own version of a charlotte. I did use recipes I found for all components, but put all the recipes together for my own version. I used the sponge cake and raspberry mousse filling from this site, and the chocolate mousse from here. Honestly, I should have halved the chocolate mousse recipe, because it made so much. I have reflected the proper measurements below, but if you want just a chocolate charlotte, double the recipe and use just the chocolate mousse as a filling.

The recipe I used consists of the following: a ladyfinger cookie outline surrounding the pan, a sponge cake base, a raspberry mousse, a chocolate mousse, and a middle layer of ladyfinger and sponge cake trimmings.

Here is a fancy dessert that (other than the sponge cake), requires no turning on of your oven. In fact, some versions of a charlotte use more ladyfingers as a base instead of a spongecake. This is a perfectly fine, and the only reason I didn’t use ladyfingers was because I ran out, so I made a sponge cake base. Them’s the breaks.

I will warn you: this dessert is not for the faint of heart! It’s a time and labour intensive dessert, but SO worth the effort.

Ingredients

Yield: 1 9 inch cake

For the sponge cake:

4 large eggs, room temperature
2/3 c. sugar
2/3 c. flour
¼ tsp. baking powder
3-4 tbsp. raspberry preserves, jam, or liqeur

For the raspberry mousse:

2½ c. frozen raspberries
½ c. sugar
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. unflavoured gelatin
2 c. heavy cream
6 tbsp. icing sugar

For the chocolate mousse:

6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c. heavy cream
¼ c. milk
¼ c. plus 2 tbsp. butter, at room temperature
3 eggs, separated
¼ c. sugar

For the lining and garnish:

2-3 dozen ladyfinger cookies (more if you use ladyfingers as a base as well as the lining)
1 c. heavy cream
Fresh raspberries (if desired)
Chocolate shavings (if desired)

To prepare, line the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan with parchment paper, and the sides of the springform pan with plastic wrap. Trim ladyfinger cookies ½ inch, so there is one flat edge. Place upright in the springform pan, sitting on the flat edge. If desired, line the bottom of the pan with more ladyfinger cookies, and use the cut pieces to fill in gaps.

If not lining the cake pan with ladyfinger cookies, begin preparation by making the sponge cake. In a 7 inch cake pan, line the bottom with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350°F.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the eggs for 1 minute. Add the sugar, and beat again on high speed approximately 7 minutes, until light, fluffy, and 3-4 times the volume.

Sift together the flour and baking powder. Sift the flour mixture into the egg mixture in two additions, folding after each addition. Be thorough, and catch any hidden flour pockets, but keep the air in and do not over-mix.

Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake in the preheated oven for 23-25 minutes, until top is golden and springs back when poked lightly.

Let cool completely, then slice cake in half. My cake did not slice evenly, so I had one even layer, and I turned the remainder into a secondary “crumb” layer with my ladyfinger pieces in the middle.

For the raspberry mousse, combine the frozen raspberries and sugar in a medium saucepan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the raspberries reach a jam-like consistency. Remove from the heat and strain through a sieve into a bowl, pressing on the fruit to extract as much liquid as possible.

Into the strained raspberry juice, stir in the lemon juice and gelatin. Transfer back to the saucepan, and over the warm burner whisk together until gelatin dissolves, then take back off the heat and let cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of a mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the heavy cream and the icing sugar together until thick and spreadable. Once the raspberry syrup is at room temperature, fold into the whipped cream a ¼ at a time, until all of the raspberry syrup is incorporated. Set aside, at room temperature.

For the chocolate mousse, in a heat-proof bowl add the chocolate, and melt over a double boiler or in the microwave for 30 second blasts, stirring constantly.

Add the milk, and whisk completely. Add the butter, and the egg yolks, whisking again until fully incorporated.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the cream until fluffy and thick. Fold in the chocolate mixture.

In a clean mixer bowl (with no grease whatsoever!), whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the sugar, and whip egg whites into stiff peaks.

Fold egg whites into the chocolate mixture until cohesive.

To assemble the charlotte, in the prepared springform pan lined with ladyfingers, place the sponge cake in the base of the pan. Brush with the raspberry preserves, jam, or liqueur if using.

Spread half of the raspberry mousse in an even layer, and place in the refrigerator for 10-20 minutes to set up. Top with half of the chocolate mousse, and refrigerate again to begin setting up. Be careful not to knock the ladyfingers out of place.

If desired, use another layer of ladyfingers and cake crumbs on top of the chocolate mousse layer.

Top with remaining raspberry mousse, set for 10-20 minutes again, the remaining chocolate mousse, and refrigerate 3-4 hours until set.

To garnish, whip the cream into soft, thick peaks. Fill a piping bag with a star tip, and the whipped cream. Pipe onto charlotte, and garnish as desired with raspberries or chocolate shavings.