Thursday, November 25

Spiced éclairs with milk chocolate glaze

Spiced Chocolate Eclairs

Éclairs, éclairs, éclairs- you much maligned things. It's not your fault you're sometimes deemed as boring or passé. It's really not, and I know those hurtful words are untrue. I hope one day you become as popular as the macaron and there's a global trend to make you in all different flavours and wacky shapes. You deserve it. I wish my rendition of you would start this trend but alas, I have broken no new ground today.

Regardless, these éclairs are all round delicious and incredibly easy. A few months ago I was shocked to discover just how simple choux pastry was. I thought "wow, this couldn't be easier, why was I so afraid?" Little did know an easier recipe does exist because this recipe uses a stand mixer. A stand mixer! You don't even have to bet the eggs into the cooked dough yourself, seriously. It's that simple.

That being said, I actually like the other recipe better but maybe that's because I made it in a better kitchen, with better things, and a better oven. So it just seems better. Or maybe it was just a better recipe - I'm leaning towards the latter.


Spiced éclairs with milk chocolate glaze

(adapted from The Art & Soul of Baking)

Vanilla crème pâtissière

375ml (1 1/2 cups) milk
1 vanilla bean
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
85g (6 tablespoons) sugar
35g (1/4 cup) plain flour
30g (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cold

Pour the milk into a medium saucepan. Use the tip of a paring knife to cut the vanilla bean lengthwise. Turn the knife over and use the dull side to scrape the seeds into the saucepan, then add the pod. Heat the mixture until it just begins to simmer. Remove from the heat and let steep for 30 minutes.

Heat the milk to just below boiling point and remove from the heat. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolks, and sugar until well blended. Add the flour and whisk vigorously until the mixture is very smooth. Pour 125ml (1/2 cup) of the hot milk mixture into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to temper the eggs. Slowly pour the yolk mixture into the remaining hot milk, whisking all the while.

Heat the mixture, whisking constantly to prevent it from lumping, until it reaches a boil. Continue to cook and whisk for another minute, until the pastry cream is very thick. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter. Strain the cream through a fine strainer set over a medium bowl to remove any lumps.

Press a piece of cling wrap directly on to the surface of the pastry cream, then set aside to cool to room temperature. Once the pastry cream as completely cooled, transfer it to the refrigerator until required.

Pâte à choux

115g (4 oz) unsalted butter, chopping into 1cm (1/2") pieces
250ml (1 cup) water
1/4 teaspoon salt
140g (1 cup) plain flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon sugar
4 large eggs, plus one egg extra

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F) and position two racks in the top and lower thirds of the oven. Line two trays with baking paper.

Cook the butter, water, and salt in a medium saucepan, stirring from time to time to ensure the butter melts evenly. When the butter as melted, increase the heat and bring to the boil. Immediately remove from the heat and add the flour, cinnamon, cloves, and sugar all at once. Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together in a mass around it. Place the pan back over medium heat and continue to cook, beating it until the dough has dried out slightly and a thin film forms on the bottom of the pan, about a minute.

Transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute to slightly cool the dough. In a medium bowl, beat the 4 eggs together until you can't distinguish the yellow from the white. With the mixer on medium, add the eggs a couple of tablespoons at a time, allowing each addition to blend completely before continuing. When the eggs are incorporated, the mixer should be shiny and elastic.

Spoon the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a 1.25cm (1/2 inch) plain round tip. Pipe the dough into 12cm (4") by 2.5cm (1") rectangles. To disconnect the flow of dough slice a lightly oiled knife across the opening of the tip.

Lightly beat the remaining egg to blend thoroughly. Brush a light coating over the top of the piped dough, being careful that the egg does not drip down the sides as it will glue the eclairs to the baking paper. Bake both trays of eclairs for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 180°C (350°F) and switch the trays between the racks. Bake for a further 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature again, to 150°C (300°F) and bake for 10-15 minutes longer to dry out the insides. The éclairs should be deep brown. Remove from the oven and transfer the eclairs to a rack to cool.

When completely cool, spoon the crème pâtissière into a clean and dry pastry bag fitted with a bismarck or plain 0.5cm (1/4") plain tip. If using a bismarck tip, make a small hole in one of the short ends of the éclair. Then, insert the end of the bismarck as far as it will go. Squeeze firmly as you slowly pull the tip out of the pastry. If using a plain tip, make two evenly spaced holes in the bottom of an éclair with the tip of a paring knife. Insert the plain tip into each one, squeezing firmly to fill the centre. Repeat to fill remaining éclairs.

Milk chocolate glaze

115g (4 oz) milk chocolate, finely chopped
125ml (1/2 cup) heavy whipping cream

Place the chocolate in a small bowl that is wide enough to accommodate an éclair. Bring the cream to the boil in a small saucepan. Immediately pour over the chocolate and let the mixture sit for 1 minute. Whisk the mixture until it is completely smooth and blended. Cool for 10 minutes before using.

Turn the éclairs upside down, dip the top of each one halfway into the chocolate glaze, then lift it and let the excess drip back into the bowl. Set the éclair right side up on a serving platter or lined baking tray and allow to set for 30 minutes. Refrigerate until required.

Monday, November 15

Orange & coconut syrup cake

orange and coconut syrup cake

It's hard being an obsessive baker when only two people live in your house. Actually, hard is probably the wrong word, the baking bit is easy whether you live in a household of two or ten. The hard it is finishing what you make, particularly on the weeks you don't have people around for whatever reason.

Luckily for me, we seem to have an endless number of people coming and going from our house so most things get eaten fairly quickly. Whipping out a slice of cake makes guests feel comfortable and welcome and it also prevents me from having any unwanted leftovers. It also means I can start on whatever recipe next strikes my fancy without feeling guilty.

I do try to reduce the quantity of most recipes but I'm either paranoid that I'll reduce too much or there's only so small a recipe will go. This recipe falls into the first category, I didn't want to reduce it too much just in case it was delicious (which it was) and I wanted to eat more than one slice of it (which I did). The original recipe made one 26cm (10 1/2") cake, mine makes one 20cm (8") cake. I probably could have reduced the quantity further (down to two eggs, from five) but I'm not sure I have a cake tin that small. Anyway, I'm glad I didn't because it there's all the more for me.

This cake is kind of surprising. Most coconut cake I've made contain desiccated coconut whereas this one contains shredded. As a result the cake has bits of coconut that you can feel as you bit into it throughout. It's weird but nice. I think it works well as the cake itself is super moist due to syrup, the shredded coconut gives it a noticeable texture.

Orange & coconut syrup cake

(adapted from Eating in by Philip Johnson)
makes one 20cm (8") cake

200g (7 oz) Greek-style yoghurt
70g (2.4 oz) cream cheese
90g (3 oz)unsweetened shredded coconut
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
120g (4 1/4 oz) unsalted butter, softened
190g (6 3/4 oz) caster sugar
3 eggs
120g (4 1/4 oz) self-raising flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Orange Syrup

120g (4 1/4 oz) caster sugar
Juice of 1 orange

Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F). Grease and line the base of a 20cm (8") spring-form cake tin.

In a food processor or a blender combine the yoghurt, coconut, cream cheese, orange zest, and juice. Process until smooth, then set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and pale. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold through the yoghurt mixture, incorporating it well. Sift the flour and baking soda over the top, then fold through.

Pour the cake mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 50-55 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven.

While the cake is cooking, prepare the orange syrup by combining the sugar and just enough water to cover it in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the orange juice, then remove from the heat.

Drizzle the syrup over the warm cake in a steady stream until it is absorbed, using a pastry brush to distribute the syrup evenly if necessary. Cool the cake to room temperature before removing from the tin. When ready to serve, slice and serve with ice cream.

Saturday, November 6

Chocolate-orange meringues with orange cream


So, needless to say I never got around to photographing my birthday cake which is a real pity because it was rather epic. On the plus side, it does mean I need to make it again some time in the future. Assuming I can afford all the ingredients; half a kilo of good chocolate, twelve eggs, and four cups of cream are not the core ingredients for a cheap cake. Nor are they the ingredients for a cake that you should consume on a regular basis, through part of me would like to try.

This cake of mine left me with a fair few egg whites to use up - so what better way than meringue? Especially considering prior to making these I had never made meringue before. Sure, I've made meringue based icings and what not but never meringue that is nothing more than meringue.


That said, I'd like to think that these are more than meringue because they are! They're meringue filled with cream. Admittedly that's really not a huge step up from plain old meringue but it's a step nonetheless. A small step for a small person, I guess.

Speaking of small steps - in about two-and-a-half weeks I have finished my degree. That's four years of degree over in a matter of weeks. Can anyone recommend any good celebration desserts? If they're somehow related to the number four, even better. Maybe your favourite four ingredient dessert, or maybe a cake that somehow uses four cups of cream? Help is appreciated!

Chocolate-orange meringues with orange cream

makes about 20

Chocolate-orange meringues

(adapted from Macaroons & Biscuits by the Women's Weekly)

3 egg whites
155g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
1 tablespoon sifted cocoa powder
2 teaspoons orange rind, finely grated
2 teaspoons orange liqueur

Preheat oven to 120°C (250°F), grease oven trays and line with baking paper.

Beat the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, beating until dissolved between each addition. Fold the cocoa powder, orange rind, and liqueur through the egg whites.

Transfer the mixture to a piping bag, then pipe equal sized rounds onto the lined trays. Bake for 1 hour, then cool on trays.

Orange cream

(adapted from Gourmet Traveller, July 2007)

65ml milk
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
3 pieces orange rind
1 egg yolk
60g (1/4 cup) caster sugar
15g (4 teaspoons) cornflour
100ml (3.4 fl. ounces) double cream

Combine the milk, orange juice, Grand Marnier, and orange rind in a small saucepan and bring to just below the boil. Remove from the heat and set aside for 15 minutes to infuse.

Combine the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and whisk for 1-2 minutes, add the cornflour and whisk to combine.

Reheat the milk to just below the boil, then strain over the egg mixture, whisk to combine then return to the pan and whisk over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, or until thick and smooth. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and cool. When completely cold, whisk in the cream. Continue whisking until thick and smooth. Refrigerate until required.


Using a teaspoon, scoop out the centre of the meringues and set aside. Fill a piping bag with orange cream, and pipe enough cream to fill the hole in the meringue. Sandwich two filled sides of meringue together and refrigerate until required.