Saint-Honoré Dessert

This creation was a lot of fun to put together! It is a little extra work because you have to make the pastry cream, the pastry dough, the Choux dough, whipped cream AND caramel. And you have to assemble it! But if you have the time and you want to impress some people, it turns out delicious and everyone thinks you are amazing! You could actually make the pastry cream and the pastry dough ahead of time and chill them until you are ready to start. Just make sure you take out the pastry dough about a half hour before you start so it is workable. Otherwise, you probably need about 2.5-3 hours total from start to end (and then about an hour to chill before serving). And if you don’t feel like going crazy and making the whole thing, just make the cream puffs and fill them with pastry cream!

St Honore Cake

Saint-Honoré Dessert

From Good Housekeepings Best Loved Desserts – will serve about 16 people and maybe leave you with a few cream puffs left over! All the recipes for the individual parts are listed below and this is just the assembly part of the recipe! Have fun making this creation! It really is kind of fun! There are pictures following the assembly instructions (I thought I would have the words easier to follow without pics interrupting!)

  1. Start by making the pastry cream and put it in the fridge to chill.
  2. Make the pastry dough. On a lightly floured surface, using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a 12-inch circle. Trim the edges to make it circular and ‘clean edged’ and then transfer the dough to a parchment lined baking sheet. Prick the pastry all over with a fork and then place the whole thing in the fridge to chill.
  3. Preheat your oven to 400ºF. Prepare a second baking sheet with parchment paper (or grease it)
  4. Make the Choux Pastry. Fill a pastry/piping bag (fitted with a 1/2 inch round tip – #1 in the Wilton line) with the batter. Pipe the batter around the edge of the pastry dough circle. Then pipe about 16 “puff’s” or mounds (1 1/2 inch wide and 1 inch high) on the prepared baking sheet. Dip your fingertip into water and then smooth out any peaks in the puffs.
  5. Bake the pastry circle about 25 minutes and the puffs 35-40 minutes. Everything should end up a nice golden colour. If your oven has hot spots, rotate the two sheets between the  upper and lower racks after 20 minutes. Transfer the puffs to wire rack to cool. Leave the pastry circle on the sheet to cool.
  6. Beat your whipped cream. Fold about half of the pastry cream into the whipped cream and refrigerate.
  7. Spoon the remaining half of the pastry cream into a large pastry bag with a 1/4 inch tip or a “filling” tip (#230 from Wilton). When the cream puffs are cool (this doesn’t actually take that long). Insert the tip into the side of each puff and fill with pastry cream. I tried to get as much as I could into each one! If you have some cream left over, just add it to the pastry cream/whipped cream mixture.
  8. Make the caramel – be prepared to work quickly once it is ready!
  9. Dip the bottom of each puff into the caramel and attach to the ‘puff’ rim around the edge of the pastry. Place as close to the outside edge as possible and put the puffs as close together as you can. Drizzle more of the caramel over the top of the puffs.
  10. Spread the pastry cream/whipped cream mixture evenly in the centre of the circle. Drizzle a little more caramel over the top. Don’t be like me: DO NOT put any leftover cream puffs in the centre. It makes it SO awkward to cut. Just eat them and enjoy!
  11. Refrigerate minimum 1 hour before serving. I put mine in the fridge overnight but that wasn’t the best – the caramel lost its ‘crunch’ and just sort of melted into the pastry cream. You definitely can make it a day ahead, but just don’t put any caramel over the cream, and be prepared that it won’t be quite as good. It is better to make this in the afternoon for an evening event.
Pastry circle & Choux Pastry edge PLUS piped creamed puffs

Pastry circle & Choux Pastry edge PLUS piped creamed puffs

Baked Pastry Circle with Choux Pastry edge

Baked Pastry Circle with Choux Pastry edge

Baked Choux Pastry Puffs

Baked Choux Pastry Puffs

Whipping cream and pastry cream

Whipped cream and pastry cream – mix half of the pastry cream with the whipped cream.

Filled cream puffs! They really are great just like that!

Filled cream puffs! They really are great just like that!

Saint Honore Cake assembled with caramel

Saint Honore Cake assembled with caramel

Vanilla Pastry Cream

  • 2 1/4 cup milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 Tb vanilla
  1. In a large saucepan, heat 2 cups of milk over medium heat until bubbles form around the edge. While it is heating, beat egg yolks, sugar and last 1/4 cup of milk together. Whisk in cornstarch and flour.
  2. When the milk is hot, slowly whisk it into the egg yolk mixture.
  3. Return to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture has thickened and boils. Reduce heat to low and cook for 2 more minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Pour into a shallow dish and press plastic wrap to the surface of the pastry cream to prevent skin from forming. Refrigerate.

    Pastry Circle

    Pastry Circle

Pastry Dough

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tb cold butter
  • 3-4 Tb ice water
  1. Whisk together flour and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  2. Sprinkle ice water over (1 Tb at a time) and mix lightly with the blender or a fork. Just add enough water that the mixture holds together.

Choux Pastry

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 eggs
  1. In a medium saucepan, heat the butter, water and salt over medium heat until the butter has melted and the mixture boils. Remove from heat.
  2. Add the flour all at once and with a wooden spoon, vigorously stir until the mixture leaves the side of the pan and forms a nice ball.

    This is pre-egg Choux Pastry. It should form a nice ball.

    This is pre-egg Choux Pastry. It should form a nice ball.

  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each one until smooth and satiny.
The finished Choux Pastry - smooth & satiny!

The finished Choux Pastry – smooth & satiny!

Whipped Cream

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  1. In a mixer or using a hand beater, beat on high until stiff peaks form.

    Keep boiling! It needs to turn amber coloured

    Keep boiling! It needs to turn amber coloured

Caramel

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tb water
  1. In a small saucepan, heat sugar and water to boiling over medium-high heat. Boil until the mixture turns amber in colour then IMMEDIATELY pour the hot caramel into a small bowl to stop it from cooking.

This is how it looks if you put caramel over the top and then leave it until the next day – not really pretty. Eat it fresh or do NOT put caramel over the cream. Also, do not put cream puffs in the middle if you have extra (so awkward to cut) – just eat them separately!


Sweetly Spiced Sweet Potato Bread

Why is it that everything that is made with yam is actually called sweet potato? Sweet potato fries, sweet potato loaf, sweet potato salad etc. I think it is partly because it just sounds more appealing than yam. Yam sort of sounds like yak – not so appealing. Sweet potato sounds sweet – way more appealing. In reality, yams are the better tasting and the sweeter of the two.

WAIT! I just learned something. Both are actually sweet potatoes! I was going to say that yams are sweeter, moister and more orange while sweet potatoes are less sweet, dryer and more yellow. However, I just learned that what I think of as yams and what are generally sold as yams are in fact just a different variety of sweet potato! True yams are not even related and have a very dark skin and can grow up to SEVEN FEET!!  (see this site  and this one if you don’t believe me!)

So now at least I can call this sweet potato bread without lying to you (I figured I had used yams)! Anyways, if you like pumpkin bread, or carrot cake, or zucchini loaf (bread vs cake vs loaf – let’s not go into differentiating those today! I already lost one battle) then you will love this loaf – or rather bread! It is sweet and moist and deliciously spiced. The picture doesn’t really do it justice (and I only took a couple, late at night!) Enjoy!

baking 2013 051

Sweetly Spiced Sweet Potato Bread
(adapted slightly from this recipe by loveveggiesandyoga.com)

  • 1 1/2 cup orange sweet potatoes (likely labeled at the grocery store as yams!) – peeled, cooked and mashed (I boiled mine but you could steam them or cook them however you prefer)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk (or yogurt or sour cream)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tb molasses
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 Tb cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 Tb coarse sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. To bowl containing mashed potatoes, add eggs, oil, buttermilk and vanilla. Mix well. Stir in sugars and molasses.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, spices and salt (not the coarse sugar).
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined (it may still be somewhat lumpy – don’t overmix it!)
  5. Pour evenly into a greased or parchment paper lined loaf pan. Sprinkle with coarse sugar over the top.
  6. Bake 55-65 min or until a toothpick/cake tester comes out cleanly.
  7. Allow to cool at least 10 minutes in the pan before removing it to cool completely on a rack.

Macarons – two recipes, one flopped, one passed!

Back in March my friend and I did a class on how to make Macarons. Not macaroons (the chewy, coconut-heavy treats) but rather macarons (a French treat that looks like a little sandwich cookie but is meringue like with ground almonds and no flour.) So when Love & Olive Oil made Macarons the April Kitchen Challenge, I figured I was ready!

Salted Caramel Macarons

Pretty  much every recipe you come across claims that you have to weigh each ingredient very accurately. I had come across this recipe for Simple Macarons before that used normal kitchen measurements and did not require a kitchen scale, I figured it was worth a try. I made them just before Easter but I hadn’t expected them to work so I didn’t take any pictures. I was making them alongside my Nutella trifle  and had a few other things to do so I cheated on the filling and just used a lemon spread that I had in the fridge. They were decent. They were chewy & tasty enough. But not exceptional. Then again I slightly over baked them and the filling wasn’t anything special.

But then Friday night I had the most amazing ones that someone brought to a party I was at. They were so delicious. The texture was perfect. The fillings (my favs were the salted caramel and the vanilla white chocolate) were intense and flavourful. It made me want to master the treats and made me realize that the filling was the key for flavour while the outside was the key for texture.

Wikipedia claims “the confection is characterised by smooth, squared top, ruffled circumference (referred to as the “foot” or “pied”), and flat base. It is mildly moist and easily melts in the mouth.” This was the goal.

So last night, my friend (that I had done the class with) and I decided to try two recipes: the one we had learned in class (my friend has a kitchen scale for accurate measurements), and the one that I had just used that required no scale.

The bad batch of macaronsConclusion: no need for weighing your ingredients. The ones that we did that way flopped -BADLY! We are not really sure what happened. They developed the desired ‘foot’ but it flattened and spread and the tops just collapsed rather than rising well. We aren’t sure if we over mixed the ‘macaronage’ or under mixed it (the macaronage is what the batter is called after mixing everything together). And since my friend did one recipe and I did the other, we didn’t make any direct comparison of the two macaronages. So who knows??

salted caramel macaronsBut these “Simple Macarons” that do NOT require accurate weight measurements turned out pretty good for a second time. They could have a taller foot or a slightly shinier top but otherwise, I think they look pretty good. And after aging them for 24hrs, they were “mildly moist and easily melted in the mouth” as we want! Actually the texture was really quite good. We filled them with a salted caramel buttercream. I am not including the recipe here because I wasn’t really paying attention to what my friend was doing. This looks like a decent recipe though.

Here are the basic steps:

Beat 2 egg whites on medium until frothy (as shown on the left) and then add 3 1/2 Tb sugar. Continue beating on medium-high until stiff peaks form (about 5 minutes total). The egg whites should form a ball in the whisk when you pull it out (as shown on the right). You can add food colouring if you like at this time. We didn’t.

Frothy egg whites

Fully whipped egg whites for macarons

In a separate bowl, sift together 2/3 cup icing sugar and 3/4 cup ground almonds. Stir this in to the egg whites, half at a time. This is where you make the macaronage. Unfortunately I didn’t take any pics of this most-important step. Unlike what you would normally do, you don’t have to be careful with the egg whites: you are trying to deflate them. So with a rubber spatula, mix in half the sugar-almond mixture, then the 2nd half. Keep stirring rather harshly until the batter becomes thinner and will fall as a ‘ribbon’ off of the spatula when you lift it out of the bowl. The ribbon should reincorporate into the batter after about 20-30 seconds (in other words, it shouldm’t remain as a big dollop or anything).

Spoon the batter into a piping bag with tip #1 (Wilton) attached. I have a template that I put under the parchment paper (as seen in the pic) to know how big to pipe the circles. I am pretty sure they are 1.5inch circles but the person made them for us in the macaron class. Once they are piped, bang the sheet on the counter 2 or 3 times to get the air pockets out. Then allow the macarons to dry for 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 350F at the end of this.

Piping

Piped and ready

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Don’t let them overbrown and rotate them if you need to. They should darken a little and be firm but shouldn’t darken too much. We overbaked ours a tiny bit but they were still fine. They should also form the little frilly feet at the bottom. Note: mid-baking you may or may not be able to tell how successful your macarons will be. The ones on the left below eventually were the VERY FAILED batch. They looked decent at this point and we were excited. Compared to the ones on the right though that worked well, they are flatter.

They looked so great mid-baking! Batch #2: baking

Remove from the oven and allow them to cool on the baking sheet before removing them. Once they are cooled, you can fill them with your desired filling. On the right is a picture of the bad ones, which we still filled, compared to the good ones. Wow, those are some ugly Macarons!

Baked macaron shellsThe good and the bad

Once your Macarons are filled, you can eat them BUT it is better to let them ripen/age at least 24 hours. This will soften in the macaron and give it that perfectly chewy, melty texture!

So don’t be afraid of Macarons! They don’t need to be weighed and they can still turn out well! But if you need to know what went wrong, don’t ask me! I don’t know why the other ones failed. I just know which recipe I will stick to! The easy one!

salted caramel macarons


Flaky, Buttery Croissants

I finally got a new desk with a keyboard roll-out drawer thing (whatever you want to call that). Why is this important? well it is one of the reasons I haven’t been blogging lately because it would hurt my wrists to type on my old desk. So although I would sit at my computer, I really didn’t enjoy typing things.

Recently one of the blogs I follow (Love and Olive Oil) decided to start a “kitchen challenge” each month. March was the first month and the challenge was croissants. Well I didn’t even get them made before the post deadline but I still thought it would be fun to try making them (and from now on I will try to keep up with the challenges!)

Flaky Delicious Croissants

I used the Fine Cooking Classic Croissants recipe as I really liked how they had so many pictures and such clear directions. As it turns out, they are time consuming (3 days total although actual hands-on time isn’t that much) but not difficult. I actually found the dough really nice to work with and found it very easy to just follow each direction one-at-a-time.

The rolled out dough Cut up & ready to roll

They came out perfect! I really didn’t expect such delicious flakiness in my first try but they were really quite wonderful (and I don’t even really like croissants normally!).

Unbaked Croissants

Baked Croissants

Since I followed the recipe so closely and their directions were so clear, I am not actually going to post the recipe here. The only thing I did differently was to use just one package of instant yeast (which was just under 1 Tb when I measured it even though the package claims to be 2 1/4 tsp).

Croissants

I also put some giant chocolate chips into several of them and sprinkled the tops with coarse sugar. Delicious. Really really delicious.

  Chocolate? Mmm


Gingerbread White Chocolate Blondies #fbcookieswap

I have been part of cookie exchanges every year for at least the last 5 Gingerbread White Chocolate Blondiesyears but this is my first year doing an International Cookie Exchange! I took part in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap this year. Essentially everyone that takes part is matched with 3 bloggers within their country and then they ship one dozen cookies to each of their matches. In turn, you get one dozen cookies from three bloggers that had you as a match. So essentially a huge cookie exchange! I think there were over 600 bloggers involved this year!

I had been looking at this recipe for years – literally! I thought it sounded like an interesting combination but I kept not making it. Finally I did in October and I LOVED it! Gingerbread and white chocolate are perfect together. I don’t know why more sweets don’t use this combination. There is something about the spicy gingerbread that pairs perfectly with the creamy sweetness of the white chocolate. I have now made two other desserts using this combination as well as making this recipe again! And I knew it kept quite well and didn’t crumble so I figured it should work well for an across Canada trek!Gingerbread White Chocolate Blondies

The blondies are the perfect chewy texture that is expected of blondies. (For those unfamiliar with blondies, they are essentially brownies without the chocolate – so expect the dense, chewy texture of brownies!) And like I said, the flavour combination is amazing. So in other words,  everyone should make these a regular on their “cookie baking list”. It is definitely on mine. And I don’t mean just for Christmas!

Gingerbread White Chocolate Blondies

from Martha Stewart’s Cookies; makes about 4 dozen

Delicious Spices!

  • 2 3/4 cup plus 1 Tb flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 1/4 cup butter, room temp
  • 1 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tb white sugar
  • 2 eggs plus 1 egg yolkSpread Evenly
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 2 to 3 cups chopped white chocolate
  1. Line a 12 by 17inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and spices in a bowl.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a regular bowl and use a hand mixer), beat butter and sugars until creamy and pale, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs andPrepared Dough yolk one at a time. Add the vanilla and molasses and beat until well combined.
  4. Add the flour mix slowly on low speed until mixed. Stir in the white chocolate.
  5. Spread batter in the prepared pan and bake about 25 minutes – the edges should look slightly cracked and golden.
  6. Allow to cool and then cut!

I found these fun boxes at Winners and they worked perfectly for 12 of the blondies! I hope they shipped ok! The recipe says that the blondies can be stored, air-tight, for up to 1 week at room temperature.

Gingerbread White Chocolate Blondies

Packed and Ready to go


Super Vanilla Cookies

I was lucky enough to receive a copy of the new cookbook from Shauna Sever called Pure Vanilla to review. It is a beautiful cookbook with elegant recipes and superb pictures. And it is all dedicated to the lovely aromatic-ness (new word there for you!) and deliciousness of vanilla!

The first few pages are all about vanilla – the history, varieties and some “FAQs” and then there are chapters dedicated to breakfasts, cakes and pies, cookies and bars, candies and confections, custards and creams, and drinks. The recipes all look amazing and I can’t wait to try more!

I started with what is called the “Heirloom Vanilla Sugar Cookies”. They are described to be “sandy textured but tender with a gorgeous pale-golden hue” and that seems pretty accurate! I love the tenderness of the cookie with the delicious “super-vanilla” taste of vanilla. They are definitely worth making again and although there is no reason you can’t make them regularly throughout the year, they would work beautifully as a new addition to your Holiday baking!

Super Vanilla Cookies

adapted slightly from Pure Vanilla, makes about 3 dozen cookies

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temp
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup icing/confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla powder (or another 1 tsp of vanilla)
  • about 1/4 cup Vanilla sugar (I have some as shown in the picture but you can make your own by putting a vanilla bean – even an empty one that you have scraped the bits out of – into 2 cups of white sugar and leaving it for about a week)
  1. Preheat oven to 350° and line a couple baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt.
  3. In a small measuring cup, measure the oil and then add the egg and whisk.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the sugar (regular sugar & icing sugar) and butter together until fluffy and pale, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add the oil and egg mixture. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until smooth.
  5. Scoop dough (I used both a 4Tb and a 1.5Tb cookie scoop to get both big and small cookies) onto the cookie sheet. Using the bottom of a drinking glass, dip the glass into the vanilla sugar to coat it and then press it onto the ball of cookie dough to flatten it. The first one won’t pick up a lot of sugar but the moistness of the cookie will provide the moisture to pick up enough sugar for each cookie after (you can re-sugar the first one of course!) You can then sprinkle the cookies with decorative sugar if you want a more festive cookie.
  6. Bake 10-12 minutes until pale golden and just slightly browned on the edges. Allow the cookie to cool on the baking sheet 2-3 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.

 


Cranberry Burst Pumpkin Cookies

It is time for some fall recipes! Pumpkin & spice and other delicious goodness! I recently made some oatmeal cookies with fresh blueberries in them, which got me thinking about putting other fresh fruits in cookies. Why do the rules say “dried fruit only in cookies”? There is no reason to not put some freshness into them! So just before Thanksgiving (at least the Canadian Thanksgiving), I realized that pumpkin cranberry cookies would be perfect for the season and a great opportunity to try  fresh cranberries in cookies!

Sure they are tart, but the fun ‘burstness’ of these cookies make for a perfect fall cookie! Yes, a new word was required for these cookies. The cranberries added such a bright punch of flavour and colour that it could only be described as ‘burstness’! Anyways, between the burstness, the tartness, the pumpkin’y softness and the spice, these cookies turned out delicious!

Cranberry Burst Pumpkin Cookies

adapted from Best-loved Cookies

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup pumpkin
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup cinnamon chips (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of a mixer or with a hand mixer, cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Add pumpkin, egg and vanilla and beat until well mixed.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, spices, baking soda and salt. Gradually add to the wet ingredients while mixing.
  4. Stir in cranberries & cinnamon chips.
  5. Scoop with a cookie scoop or use a spoon and drop onto prepared cookie sheets. I like to do both big cookies (about 4 Tb) and small cookies (1.5 Tb). The bigger ones take about 16 minutes to bake while the small ones take about 12 minutes. The should be set in the middle but they will still be soft.

Best-Loved Cookies: Nestle Toll House: 9780696205545: Amazon.com: Books

Best-Loved Cookies: Nestle Toll House: 9780696205545: Amazon.com: Books

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