Sunday, June 26, 2011

Eclairs au chocolat.

chocolate eclairs

Some days, I wish I had gone to p√Ętisserie school, rather than to teacher school. I seriously considered it, before deciding that I would have to get up too early in the morning if I was going to be a p√Ętissier.
Which, really, is a dumb reason to have changed my mind.

I'm not sure that making pastries for a living would be as much fun as doing it at home. 
I definitely get an enormous sense of satisfaction from making something like eclairs without any help at all (except from Julia Child, of course). 

I get this satisfaction even though eclairs aren't as difficult as I'd imagined them to be. 

chocolate eclairs

I've wanted to make choux pastry ever since I saw the Croquembouche on Masterchef, but I always thought it was going to be outrageously difficult. But they lied. It isn't that difficult to make. 
And after being in Sydney last week and eating far too many chocolate eclairs, I decided it was about time that I made some myself. 

I'm glad that I did.

chocolate eclairs

Despite these actually looking like profiteroles, I'm going to call them eclairs. But we don't need to argue about this. Just eat them.
I gave some of these to my family, and took some of them into work.
They were very well received, and for good reason, too. They are impressively tasty, if I do say so myself.

chocolate eclairs

Chocolate Eclairs.
Adapted, ever so slightly, from Julia Child's 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking'.
Using these amounts, I made 17 puffs: all of different sizes. I did this because I wanted to see which size I preferred (the smaller ones were better). I'm going to say that the choux mix would make roughly 20 puffs measuring 10cm across (once cooked). I actually didn't have quite enough custard to fill all the puffs, but the ones I did fill had a bit too much custard. You could either double the custard quantities and have some left over so that each puff got filled with a large amount of custard. Or use this amount and fill each puff a bit less, to make sure that each puff gets filled. Or you could just fill the remaining puffs with icecream.

For the choux pastry:
1 cup water
85g butter (3 oz)
pinch salt
1 tsp sugar
3/4 cup plain flour
4 eggs

In a large saucepan, bring water, butter, salt and sugar to the boil, until butter has melted.
Take off the heat and add the flour. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until thoroughly mixed.
Place over a medium heat and continue beating until mix leaves the sides of the pan and forms a mass.
Remove from heat. Make a well in the centre and crack in one egg. Beat thoroughly until mixed. At this point, it looks almost like the eggs won't incorporate, but just keep mixing. I promise it will all come together!
Continue mixing in the eggs, one at a time. Beating thoroughly after each one.
Preheat the oven to 210C.
Spoon the mix into a pastry bag and pipe onto a lined baking tray, either into circles or oblongs. The dough will double in size as it cooks, so take this into consideration when piping them. Leave a decent space between each puff.
Alternatively, use two teaspoons to scoop balls of dough onto the trays. (This is what I did, but the piping bag method is neater).
Paint beaten egg or milk onto the tops of the puffs, flattening them down slightly.
Bake for 20 mins. They will be brown and crispy and doubled in size when ready.
Take the trays out of the oven and spike each puff with a sharp knife to release the steam (Otherwise they go soggy). Place back on the tray and leave in the turned off oven for ten minutes with the door ajar, before removing to a rack to cool completely.

For the chocolate custard:
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg yolk
1 egg
1/4 cup flour
1 cup boiling milk
80g dark chocolate, chopped very, very small
1 tsp vanilla essence

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs.
Gradually beat in the sugar using a whisk. Once all incorporated, continue beating until eggs are pale and thick (about 3 mins).
Mix in the flour.
Gradually mix in the milk, beating continuously.
Pour the mix into a saucepan and set over moderate heat.
Continue stirring until mixture boils. It will start to become lumpy, but it'll smooth out as you keep beating.
Turn the heat down to moderately-low and cook for 2-3 minutes, making sure the mix doesn't scorch on the bottom of the pan.
Add the chopped chocolate and stir until chocolate is melted.

For the glaze:
90g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
70g unsalted butter, diced

Place the chocolate and butter in a metal bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Make sure the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl.
When the butter has melted and the chocolate is mostly, but not completely, melted take the bowl off the pan and stir until the chocolate has melted and the mix is smooth.

To assemble:
Fill a piping bag with custard.
Take a cooled puff and stick the nozzle of the piping bag into the slit you made in the side of the puff.
Fill with custard.
Top the puff with chocolate glaze.
Leave to cool before eating.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday I'm In Love: Vacation.


I've just spent 3 days in Sydney visiting my Mum for her birthday.
The weather was perfect and we ate so much food. It was a little bit ridiculous.


We even went to see the Archibald Prize (which was amazing, by the way).
We had dinner with my Auntie and Cousin and had a lovely time.

I think I ate more French pastries in those 3 days then when I was actually in Paris. Wild.


But I had a really good time, and I was so lucky with my flights, I missed most of the ash cloud chaos.

We went to all the trendy suburbs, and I taught my Mum all about Hipsters, and I bought lots of vintage clothes.


I am glad to be home, though.

Have you been on vacation recently?
I can't wait until my next holidays. I'm going to spend the next 4 months organising something fun.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Peanut-butter choc-chip cream-cheese cookies.

peanut butter choc chip cookies

I'm going through a cookie phase.

I've mentioned before that I go through phases of liking things. Lucky for everyone around me, it's a phase they can all appreciate.

peanut butter choc chip cookies

And besides, if you give freshly baked cookies to your friends, they like you more.

Or so I've heard.

peanut butter choc chip cookies

peanut butter choc chip cookies

Especially when the cookies are full of dark chocolate and peanut butter. I don't think I need to tell you how good this combination is. I'm sure you know it already. But if you don't, you should make some of these.
I think they'll even turn the least-peanut-butter-liking person into a peanut-butter-liking person. Truth.

peanut butter choc chip cookies

peanut butter choc chip cookies

I changed the original recipe a bit. I know, I'm a rebel.
I swapped butter for cream cheese because I wanted to use some left over cream cheese that I had. I wasn't sure how it would work, but it worked great. You could taste the cream cheese before the cookies were cooked, but after, I couldn't really taste it.
I used half a block of dark chocolate, chopped up so that some bits were really big and chunky and some bits were really small. They were also great.
I've also changed all the measurements into weights, rather than cups. Because it makes less washing up for me, and lets face it, that's a good thing.

peanut butter choc chip cookies

Peanut-Butter Choc-Chip Cream-Cheese Cookies.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes about 28 cookies

110g (4oz) cream cheese
1 cup peanut butter (8oz)
250g (8oz) sugar
1 egg
1 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
150g (5oz) plain flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup dark chocolate, chopped (about half a block)

Preheat oven to 175C. Line two baking trays.
Beat cream cheese and peanut butter in a large bowl. Beat until smooth.
Mix in sugar.
Add egg and mix well.
Beat in milk and vanilla, followed by dry ingredients.
Fold in the chopped chocolate.
Roll tbsp sized balls of batter and place on lined trays. (Optional: You can roll these balls in sugar before baking them. I found this unnecessary).
Flatten the balls down slightly and bake for 10-12 mins. They'll be quite soft still when they come out of the oven, but you don't want to overcook them.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Chocolate brownie cookies.

brownie cookies

It's no secret that I love brownies. I'd like to say that this obsession started when I was a little girl, but when I was little, I didn't like chocolate.
 I don't remember when I decided that brownies were my favourite chocolate thing, but they are. Brent loves them, too (we're so compatible!). There are not many things that he requests that I make. But brownies are one of them.

Unfortunately for him, he works all day and I'm on holidays. At home. On the couch. Watching Buffy and reading lots and lots of books. So he didn't get to eat many of these delicious, chewy cookies.

brownie cookies

These cookies are exactly like a brownie. I'd even go so far as saying that I like them better. They're my new favourite thing. They're chewy and soft in the middle and crispy and cracked on the top and around the edge. I actually thought they were a bit sweet though. Weird. A half cup is the proper amount of sugar to use, but if you, like me, prefer your cookies a bit less sweet, you can reduce the sugar.

I knew even before I made them that they would be great. So I only made half a batch - the amount that I've given you. But if you think that you have more self control around delicious, chewy, chocolatey things than I do, go ahead and make a whole batch.

I dare you.

brownie cookies

Brownie Cookies.
Adapted from Joy The Baker
Makes about 12 cookies.

120g dark chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4-1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp instant coffee
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup plain flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
optional: 2 rows dark chocolate chopped small, or 1/2 cup choc chips

Melt the chocolate and butter in a metal bowl set over simmering water.
In a large bowl, beat the sugar and egg with a spoon until frothy.
Pour in the chocolate, and stir in the rest of the ingredients.
Fold in the chopped chocolate, if using.
Stick the bowl in the freezer for 10 mins (in the meantime, you can wash the dishes. You probably should do this before the cookies are done and you sit down to eat them all).
Preheat oven to 170C and line 2 baking trays.
Take the bowl out of the freezer and scoop tbsp sized balls onto the trays. Don't put the cookies too close together, they'll spread as they cook. Leave the dough in little balls, don't press it down.
Bake the cookies for 11-12 minutes, until cracked on the top and set in the middle. You want the cookies to be quite soft still, like a brownie.
Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool slightly before putting into your mouth.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Beef stroganoff


When it rains all day and the wind howling under the door sounds like this, all I want to do is eat creamy things for dinner. Am I the only one that feels like this?

I couldn't get a very good photo because I just wanted to eat my dinner already, but it's basically diced steak cooked with cream, tomato paste, mustard and mushrooms. I used a porterhouse steak chopped up, because that was what I had, but you could probably use already chopped beef, or some other kind of steak.

I don't know why I chose to make this dish, really. It's not something that I would normally make. I don't know why though, because it was really quick and tastes really good.
I think you should make it and then watch multiple episodes of Jeeves and Wooster.

Beef Stroganoff.
Serves 2-3
Recipe adapted from taste

1 tbsp plain flour
400g porterhouse steak, trimmed and diced (about 2 medium steaks)
20g butter
1 brown onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
200g button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 cup red wine
1/2 cup beef stock
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsps dijon mustard
1/4 cup sour cream

Dust steak with flour and season with salt and pepper.
Heat some olive oil in a large fry pan and brown the steak in 2 batches. Set aside.
In the same pan, fry the onions and mushrooms in butter. Cook until soft.
Add garlic and paprika, cook for a minute.
Add the wine, stock, tomato paste and mustard. Bring to the boil and the reduce heat.
Add the beef and any juices and heat through. I like my steak still pink in the middle, so I didn't cook for that long, but if you're more of a well done kind of person, cook for a bit longer.
Stir through the cream, bring to a simmer and serve immediately.
Serve with pasta or rice or mashed potatoes.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Friday I'm In Love: A sense of accomplishment.

I'm in holiday mode. Even though I'm not on holidays yet. Go figure. And so I've been playing around with the sewing machine. Trying to make something that looks nice but isn't too difficult. Yesterday, I think I accomplished that.

I made a dress. All by myself. (Please excuse my dumb facial expression).

dress collage

I've made some clothes before, but I've always had the help of some knowledgeable parents and a pattern to work from. Not this time. This time I went out into the sewing world all by myself, without a single helping hand (I'm so grown up!).

I took a pattern off a dress that I had already. I'd like to say that I also went to the fabric shop and chose an amazing fabric that would be perfect for my first Adult Creation. But if I tell you a secret, will you promise not to laugh at me?

I cut up some old sheets to make this dress. But you promised you wouldn't laugh, so it's ok. We're all friends here. And if it makes things any better, while I was making it I totally felt like Sister Maria when she made clothes out of old curtains for the Von Trapp kids. Next thing you know, I'll be marrying my employer and running away from Nazi's.
Lets hope not.


But I did make this dress and I am so utterly proud of myself. When I went to the shops this morning wearing the dress, I had to stop myself from walking like this.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011



I've always wanted to make snickerdoodles. Just because of the name. I didn't really know what they were going to be like when I made them, but they're a biscuit, right? Obviously they're going to be nice. Plus, I didn't have to leave the house to buy any new ingredients to make them. Flour, butter, sugar, cinnamon? I'm sure you've got all those in your house.

For the moment, I'm undecided on whether I actually like these biscuits. They turned out great. They were cakey in the middle and crisp around the edges. They were rolled in cinnamon sugar and were all cracked on top.

But they didn't really taste like that much. And I used self-raising flour, rather than plain, and they were a bit metallic tasting, because of the baking powder that that brand used. Because I've never had snickerdoodles before, I wasn't sure if they were meant to taste that plain (read: bland)or if I'd done something wrong. It doesn't matter. I still ate them all anyway...


Makes 12
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

170g self-raising flour
pinch of salt
110g unsalted butter, soft
200g caster sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon + 1 tsp
1 egg

Preheat oven to 200C and line two baking trays.
In a large bowl, cream butter and 180g of the sugar until light and fluffy.
Add egg and mix.
Mix in flour, salt and 1 tsp cinnamon.
Combine remaining sugar and cinnamon on a plate.
Roll tablespoons of dough in the cinnamon sugar and place on baking tray. Place them quite far apart as they spread quite a bit. I did 6 biscuits to a tray.
Bake for 10 mins. They'll be soft still, but cooked in the middle and slightly brown on the bottom.