Posts tagged cookie

choux pastry + chouquettes

Choux pastry is so named because a patissier in the 18th century created little buns from the dough, and they were shaped like cabbages, choux meaning cabbage in French.  Choux pastry is one of the last frontiers of pastry/dough-making for me, after having tackled macaron and meringue.  This egg-enriched dough is used for, among other things: profiteroles (cream puffs), eclairs, churros, beignets, and French crullers.  Also, chouquettes (“little cabbages”), which are choux pastry balls sprinkled with pearl sugar, a special kind of large-grained sugar found mostly in Europe.

Unfortunately (?) all of my chouquettes puffed, which I suppose is really a good thing, since I was making choux pastry after all.  I was expecting something a bit flatter and denser, but I won’t complain.  Since I saw that the crushed sugar cubes I was using weren’t adhering well enough, I chose to omit the sugar on most batches and fill the remaining ones with salted caramel sauce, or serve them plain.  No one complained.

choux pastry

This makes a huge amount of chouquettes or profiteroles, so, feel free to halve the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 6 tbsp. sugar
  • 3 c. water
  • 3 c. flour
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • pearl sugar

Directions:

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring butter, sugar, salt, and water to a simmer.  Add flour and stir until combined.  Cook until the dough forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the saucepan.
  2. Let cool about 5 minutes.
  3. Add eggs, one at a time, stirring to incorporate between each addition.  The dough is fairly thick and sticky, so this will take a little muscle.
  4. At this stage, you may use the pastry immediately, or even let rest overnight – the dough I let rest overnight puffed, and then fell, so if using for chouquettes, this is desirable, less so for profiteroles.
  5. Preheat the oven to 400.  Pipe small rounds or bars onto parchment-covered baking sheets.  Sprinkle with pearl sugar for chouquettes.  Cook 13 minutes, then open the oven door, and cook a further 5-7 minutes, or until lightly golden brown on top.
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peppermint meringues

So.  Three points to anyone who can name the products sitting on my kitchen table behind the tray of meringues!  I conquered the art of American-style cookies months ago.  Chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, snickerdoodle, peanut butter, brownies – all are things I consider to be among the easiest of baking projects.  Even the sugar cookie, which in its simplicity had long eluded me, has finally become manageable.  I had always heard that cookies like meringues, which involved touchy issues of egg white whipping and precise measurements, were very difficult, so I’d lived in fear.

Plus, I had always equated meringues to chewing on styrofoam, so I wasn’t exactly jazzed to give it a try.

At last I decided to conquer this fear, and turned out row after row of pretty, peppermint flavored puffs that melt in your mouth.  They were among the easiest cookies I have ever made, and might even be my go-to cookie in the future when I want something simple.  Sure, they’re not the quickest things I’ve ever made, but honestly, the time spent in the oven isn’t so different from the time spent scooping out dough of traditional cookies and switching baking sheets half a dozen times because they spread out.  So, I’d say it might even out, but with meringues I can spend more time with my feet up!

peppermint meringues (makes about 100, depending on size)

Ingredients:

  • 6 egg whites
  • pinch salt
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 1 c. confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. peppermint extract
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp. red food coloring gel

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 200.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Place egg whites and salt in a stand mixer with wire whip.  Beat on medium-high speed until foamy, and then gradually add granulated sugar, allowing the mixer to beat a few minutes in between additions.  Beat to firm peaks, 2-3 minutes on medium-high speed.
  3. Add confectioners’ sugar and peppermint extract.  Beat in until blended.
  4. If you want meringue to come out in stripes, drip small blobs of food coloring gel on the meringue in various locations.  Scoop into pastry bag fitted with round or star tip and pipe out about 1-inch meringues, about 1 inch apart.
  5. Bake 2 1/2 hours, then let cool completely.

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chocolate macaron with two fillings

When I first began learning how to seriously cook, the place I started that set me off on the road to culinary exploration, was what you might call standard, traditional American cooking, perhaps with a Southern bent.  Macaroni and cheese, meatloaf, casseroles, biscuits, mashed potatoes, baconated green beans, etc.  I soon branched out into both nouvelle-American and vintage-style-nouvelle-American cuisine, thanks both to the cookbooks I had begun to accumulate (I have a particular interest in vintage ones) and to the Food Network, which I had begun to watch with some enthusiasm.

Around that same time, I started working at a place that offered Italian cooking classes, presided over by genuine Italian chefs, and I developed more than a passing interest in international cuisine.  Shortly thereafter, I started to explore the development of cuisine in other countries: Ancient Egypt, the American South.  Interested by the stereotype of British cuisine being dull, and yet finding that it was largely responsible for inspiring the traditional foods of America, I found myself sort of charmed by British traditions.  Being partially of Scots-Irish descent encouraged me to think of it as sort of discovering my roots.

This phase lasted for a few years, even after I had picked up my first Julia Child cookbook and had become enthralled by the simplicity of French traditional cooking.  In recent months, perusing blogs by those living in France and acquiring Julia Child’s first volume of French cookery, I have found myself developing into a full-blown Francophile.  I suppose I’m coming late to the scene of French obsession, and a very late comer to the world of the macaron, which has taken the culinary landscape quite by storm this last year or so.

I’d never actually had a Parisian macaron before attempting these myself, so I didn’t know what they were supposed to be like, but I quite enjoyed them.  I looked at a multitude of recipes before coming to the version I ultimately created.  Because it’s a fairly fussy recipe, I opted to give out weights rather than measures for most of the ingredients.  Also note, because I folded in the cocoa powder after the batter was complete, and I believe I over-folded, next time I would probably choose to sift the cocoa powder in with the powdered sugar.

chocolate macaron with two fillings (makes 40-80 depending on size)

Ingredients:

  • 6 egg whites
  • 100 g granulated sugar
  • 400 g powdered sugar
  • 220 g ground almonds
  • 2 tbsp. cocoa powder

Directions:

  1. Place the egg whites in a microwavable bowl, and microwave 30 seconds on medium power.  This will dry them out slightly, so there is no danger of excess moisture in the macaron recipe.  Or, you could leave your egg whites out around 48 hours to age them sufficiently.
  2. Pulse powdered sugar, ground almonds, and cocoa powder in a good processor to combine.
  3. In a stand mixer, whip the egg whites until foamy.  Then, gradually add granulated sugar until stiff peaks form, about 3-4 minutes on medium-high speed.
  4. Add powdered sugar mix to meringue and fold relatively quickly until dry ingredients are combined.  Batter is done when it ribbons down from your spatula and combines smoothly with the batter in the bowl.
  5. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Using a pastry bag with a 1/4-inch tip, pipe small circles of batter, about 1 inch in diameter, onto the parchment.  Space about 1 inch apart.
  6. Preheat the oven to 300.  Let the macaron sit out at room temperature anywhere from 30-60 minutes.  Bake 10-12 minutes, or until the top of the macaron slides just slightly on its base when you press them gently with your finger.  Let cool completely.  Fill as desired.

 

orange chocolate filling

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. bittersweet fudge sauce
  • several drops orange extract or 1/2 tsp. orange zest

Directions:

  1. Microwave fudge sauce briefly until pourable (the kind we bought is basically solid at fridge temp).
  2. Stir in the orange extract, and let cool until it thickens somewhat.

 

salted caramel filling

This makes WAY more than you need for filling macarons.  Luckily it can be used on lots of other tasty things: apple pie, ice cream, spoons…

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature (lower-moisture European style is best)
  • large pinch of fleur de sel (omit if using salted butter)
  • 1 1/4 c. heavy cream, room tempature

Directions:

  1. Place sugar in a medium-large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Stir as it melts, and let cook to a dark golden brown color.  It should be fragrant, but not beginning to burn.
  2. Add butter (and salt, if using), and stir in until incorporated.  I threw in butter straight from the fridge, and it is possible that the temperature shock caused mine to seize at this point.  This is why I recommend warmer butter.  If yours seizes, though, do not panic.  Turn the heat down to low, and continue whisking until the butter has been re-incorporated.  This took me perhaps 5-10 minutes before I had a smooth mixture again.  Another possible solution is adding a few tablespoons of hot water, allowing it to bubble a little, and whisk it until the mixture is smooth.
  3. Add the heavy cream, and whisk until smooth.  It is too thin to use as filling right away, so let cool to room temperature before you use it for filling macarons.

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