Sunday, August 31, 2008

Daring Bakers—Chocolate Éclairs…Kransekage

Chocolate Éclairs…KransekageThis month, the Daring Bakers were asked to make chocolate éclairs. I was happy to do it because earlier this year I had made pâte à choux in the form of swans and that became one of my favorite desserts. This version of éclairs consists of three elements: pâte à choux (also known as choux pastry or cream puff dough), chocolate pastry cream, and a chocolate glaze. Instead of making traditional éclairs, I wanted to do something different so I made them into rings, like a Scandinavian wedding cake called Kransekage.


Kransekage (Denmark)
Kranssi (Finland)
Kransakaka (Iceland)
Kransekake (Norway)
Kranskaka (Sweden)

Kransekage cake, which some say dates back as far as the 1700's, is often served at Scandinavian wedding and anniversary celebrations. For wedding cakes, the bride and groom will sometimes put their hands together over the top pyramid of the cake and break off a number of rings. The number of rings broken off is said to indicate how many children they will produce. For anniversary celebrations, the number of rings on the cake may depict the number of years of marriage being commemorated.

A special pan is usually used to make this cake, but it can also be made with dough rolled into long "snakes" which are formed into circles of varying sizes and baked on a cookie sheet. {I was lucky enough to borrow Kransekage pans from a Scandinavian family friend, Mrs. G, who has used these pans at each of her children’s weddings.} The baked and cooled circles are then stacked to form a pyramid. The pyramid is drizzled and decorated with almond-flavored frosting. The rings are broken into bite-sized pieces for serving.

For this pâte à choux version of Kransekage, I made 12 rings. I wasn't too concerned about evenness as I piped the choux paste, and this had the unintended effect of causing the pyramid to lean as I built it up ring by ring. It seems a miss-shaped ring on the bottom will affect the entire pyramid above. So although it was a little on the crooked side, with practice and patience I'm sure it could look more professional!

Mrs. G's Recipe for Kransekage
(Norwegian Wedding Cake)

1 cup butter
1 cup icing sugar
2 egg yolks
1½ cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon almond flavoring
½ cup almond paste

Sift powdered sugar, and add to butter and cream thoroughly. Beat in egg yolks. Stir in flour, flavoring, and almond paste. Mix until very smooth.

Pipe into Kranse Kage pans. Bake at 350˚F until a delicate brown. Cool. Frost with almond flavored butter frosting or icing sugar frosting.

Chocolate Pastry Cream and Glaze
Back to the pâte à choux…The filling for the pâte à choux is usually a pastry cream (crème pâtissière in French), which is just a fancy name for pudding. It’s a very versatile cream that’s used as a filling in éclairs, tarts, pastries, cream puffs, cakes, and so on. This one has a delicious, rich chocolate flavor. And the chocolate glaze that's drizzled on top is the best I've ever tasted.

I used chocolate from Bernard Callebaut, who is internationally recognized for producing the best chocolate in Canada and throughout the world. When I was in Saskatchewan, I was able to pick up some Callebaut chocolate at one of his locations. After returning to Ottawa, I found out that my favorite local chocolatier, Truffle Treasures, uses Callebaut chocolate in her truffles, and I can buy Callebaut at her store too.

Recipe for Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough

Ingredients for Chocolate Éclairs…Kransekage
from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé

Makes 20-24 Éclairs or 12 rings for a Kransekage

To see the different éclairs, swans, cream puffs {and Kransekages!} cropping up all over the foodblogosphere, check out the Daring Bakers Blogroll or click HERE. Thanks to Meeta of What’s for Lunch, Honey and Tony Tahhan who hosted this month’s Daring Bakers event.

To make the Pâte à Choux:
In a saucepan, stir together the milk, water, butter, and sugar over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, uncovered. Stir to ensure that everything is mixed and the butter is all melted.
Remove the saucepan from the heat. Add the flour all at once. Stir to incorporate. Beat the mixture until it becomes a ball and pulls away from the sides of the saucepan. Return the saucepan to the heat and cook the paste, stirring continuously, over medium heat until it dries out, about 3 minutes. The paste is dry enough when it leaves a thin, dry film on the bottom of the saucepan.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow it to cool for 5 minutes or so. When the dough is cool, add the first egg. Stir the egg into the paste. Initially, the egg and paste will seem not to blend, but after a while they will start to combine. Stir until the paste is a pale yellow, smooth, moist, sticky, and slightly elastic.

Bake at 425˚F for the first 15-20 minutes. Then turn the oven down to about 350˚F and bake them until they are very dry and crisp and a deep golden color throughout. When the shells are done, turn the oven off and leave the door closed. The residual heat will dry and crisp the shells even more.

Need Help? Here’s an article with step-by-step pictures of what the choux paste should look like along with some history. As well, Joe Pastry has an article about choux paste too. And here’s a video of Alton Brown making choux paste. As well, here’s a video showing how to pipe cream puffs.

{Although my pâte à choux failed the first time, collapsing into a heavy dough of eggs and flour after pulling it out of the oven too early, I did a bit of googling and reading, and thanks to this invaluable link, I was able to make it successfully.}

To make the Chocolate Pastry Cream:
In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. Whisk together the eggs and sugar, then add the cornstarch and combine thoroughly until mixture has lightened in color. Temper in the warm milk and cook to a gentle boil over medium-low heat, whisking constantly until thickened. It should take about 1 minute to come to a boil. Then continue to simmer until smooth and thick, another 1-2 minutes. Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat and let cool to 140˚F. Add the butter, stirring gently to combine. Once the pastry cream has been chilled, don’t whisk or it will break down the starch.

Need Help? Here’s a video showing how to make pastry cream. As well, Joe Pastry shows you how to make it too.

To make the Chocolate Sauce:
Place all the ingredients for the chocolate sauce into a heavy‐bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly. Then reduce the heat to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon.

To make the Chocolate Glaze:
In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.

Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.
Chocolate Éclairs…KransekageTasting Notes
This recipe is so light-tasting, and the chocolate twist was incredible. The pastry cream recipe on its own will be a valuable one to return to for filling a variety of desserts. We enjoyed the leftover glaze and sauce on ice cream, so that’s definitely a keeper too!

Pâte à choux is a magical pastry that is easily one of my favorite desserts.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Whisk Wednesdays—Steak Mirabeau (Beef Tenderloin Steaks with Anchovy Butter)

Steak Mirabeau (Beef Tenderloin Steaks with Anchovy Butter)Sharp, briny, stinky. That’s anchovies and olives for me. I’ve tried to like these foods, but I still avoid them. This week, the curriculum that I’m following called for a discussion of compound butters, and the only recipe in Le Cordon Bleu at Home that contained a compound butter was Steak Mirabeau. The steak part was great, but the anchovy butter…not so good. So, I decided to make a bunch of other compound butters to have on hand and compare.

“…and one slice with anchovies.”
A Crankshaft Collection by
Chuck Ayers , Tom Batiuk
Compound Butters
Compound butter is a fancy name for flavored butter. They’re a quick and easy way to add a burst of flavor to meat or vegetables. Michael Ruhlman has a great description in his book Elements of Cooking and on his blog {and a beautiful picture by his wife Donna}.

There are some standard compound butters, but the possibilities for flavoring butter are endless. Some famous compound butters are garlic butter, Maître d’Hôtel butter, and Escargot butter. 101 Cookbooks has some interesting ideas for flavor combinations. For this Mirabeau steak, the recipe called for anchovy butter. {Mirabeau means the dish has anchovies and olives.}

Compound butters don’t have to be just savory. You can also make sweet compound butters such as Honey butter or Orange butter, which contains orange zest, orange liqueur, orange juice, and icing sugar.

When making compound butter, don’t melt the butter in the microwave. You want room temperature butter, not melted butter. After adding the flavorings, you can roll it in wax paper, parchment paper, or plastic wrap and return it to the refrigerator to set. You can store it in the freezer for up to one month and slice off what you need.

Tips: If the compound butter is frozen, you can grate it onto the meat or vegetables. Another tip from Amy Snider was to tie up compound butter in cheesecloth and rub it over corn on the cob.

Click to enlarge image
Compound ButtersWatch a Pro
Although simple to make, I found a video showing how to make compound butter.

Café de Paris Butter
One famous compound butter is called Café de Paris butter. It consists of about 20 different ingredients all whipped into the butter, including herbs, spices, mustard, marjoram, dill, rosemary, tarragon, paprika, capers, chives, curry powder, parsley, shallots, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, and anchovies. According to this article, in 1941, Freddy Dumont created this compound butter at the Restaurant Café de Paris in Geneva. It became such a hit that it became difficult to get a reservation. It is described as “artery-clogging, chin-glisteningly good.”

Café de Paris in GenevaSides
The best parts of this recipe were the side dishes, especially the fried onions. After slicing the onions into ¼-inch rings, I sprinkled them with salt, pepper, and chopped parsley. Then, I soaked them in milk for 20 minutes. After drying them with a paper towel and dredging them with flour, I deep fried them in 360˚F oil until they were brown and crispy.

The other side dish was baked tomatoes. I just pierced the tops with an “x”, sprinkled them with salt and pepper and added a dollop of butter. Then, I baked them in a 400˚F oven for 10-15 minutes. They taste sweet and gooey after baking.

If you like anchovies and olives, you can wrap an anchovy around a pitted olive for a touch of elegance as a garnish. A fistful of watercress adds some color, crunch, and spice to the plate as well.

Steak Mirabeau mise en placeYou can find the recipe for Steak Mirabeau (Beef Tenderloin Steaks with Anchovy Butter) in the book Le Cordon Bleu at Home. To see how the rest of the Whisk Wednesdays group fared with this week's recipe, click here (or check out the sidebar) and then click on each blogger!

Tasting Notes
“Hold the anchovies” {and olives}!
As you can tell, I wasn’t fond of this steak à la Mirabeau! However, I did enjoy the Tarragon and the Escargot compound butters on my tenderloin. And the fried onions were easy and delicious and one side dish I will have to make when there are more mouths to feed since they are not good for the diet at all! I’m looking forward to trying my sweet compound butters on muffins or pancakes and making that artery-clogging Café de Paris butter soon!

With that, I'll leave you with an award-winning haiku...
first date–
the little pile
of anchovies

—Roberta Beary,
from The Unworn Necklace (Snapshots Press, 2007);
Frogpond (Winter 2007), 1st Place,
Haiku Society of America’s 2006 Gerald Brady Senryu Contest
(found here)
Next Week (September 3)
• Brochet au beurre blanc (Whole Poached Pike with White Butter Sauce) page 307-308 {discussion of Beurre blanc (Emulsified butter with shallots) page 192}

. . . . . . . . . .

Running total: $669.38 + $30.82 (2 steaks) $11.42 (Mirabeau, onions, tomatoes) = $711.62

Butter used so far: 7 pounds, 11 tablespoons {I didn't add all the pounds of butter I used in making all the different compound butters this week since only a 1/4 of a pound was required for the recipe. Just thought you'd like to know if you're playing along and counting your cholesterol points!}

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie—Chocolate-Banded Ice Cream Torte

Chocolate-Banded Ice Cream TorteChocolate and raspberries are a classic, indulgent and tasty combination. In this recipe, Dorie freezes them together in a delicious ice cream cake that appeals to the over 10 set!

Chocolate “Ganache”
The chocolate part of the dessert is basically an unbaked flourless chocolate cake: chocolate, butter, sugar, and eggs. Although it’s called a ganache in the cookbook, technically a ganache is just cream and chocolate (no eggs or butter).

{Warning: This dessert contains raw eggs, so you should be careful since there’s a chance the egg may be contaminated with Salmonella, a bacteria that can cause food poisoning. Use only properly refrigerated, clean, sound-shelled, fresh, grade AA or A eggs.}

As for the chocolate, I used Bernard Callebaut, who is internationally recognized for producing the best chocolate in Canada and throughout the world. When I was in Saskatchewan, I was able to pick up some Callebaut chocolate at one of his locations. After returning to Ottawa, I found out that my favorite local chocolatier, Truffle Treasures, uses Callebaut chocolate in her truffles, and I can buy Callebaut at her store too.

To make the chocolate ganache, first I melted the chocolate and butter and then added the sugar. After this mixture had cooled a bit, I added the eggs one at a time. {You don’t want the mixture to be too hot when you add the eggs or it will coagulate and you’ll have bits of scrambled eggs in the chocolate.}

Ice Cream
The ice cream step is easy. Using my food processor, I puréed raspberries and added my favorite vanilla ice cream. Then, I threw in a splash of framboise.

Playing Around
I tried freezing this dessert in popsicle molds, but I think it would be better to dip them in the chocolate after freezing the ice cream in the molds so that you have a bite of chocolate with each bite of raspberry ice cream.


Ingredients for Chocolate-Banded Ice Cream TorteYou can find the recipe for Chocolate-Banded Ice Cream Torte in the book Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. To see how the rest of the TWD group fared with this week's recipe, click here and then click on each blogger! Thanks to Amy of Food, Family and Fun who chose the recipe for this week.

Yield: This recipe made 10 popsicles and one 7-inch springform pan.

Chocolate-Banded Ice Cream Torte
Tasting Notes
The reviews on this one were mixed from the under 10 set: one daughter liked the chocolate but not the raspberry ice cream, another liked the raspberry ice cream but not the chocolate, and the third liked both together. The adult set thought it was delicious!

Recipe for Next Week (September 2)
Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters on page 73 chosen by Stefany of Proceed with Caution.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Whisk Wednesdays—Potage Ambassadeur (Split Pea Soup with Bacon, Sorrel, and Lettuce)

Potage Ambassadeur (Split Pea Soup with Bacon, Sorrel, and Lettuce)Even though I live across the river from French Canada where pea soup (soupe aux pois) is a national dish, I've never ordered pea soup in a restaurant or tasted split peas before, so I wasn't too thrilled to make this soup, and neither was my family in Saskatchewan! My sister suggested I make it when I return to Ottawa, but she wasn't so lucky with the Whisk Wednesdays' schedule. The kids passed on having a bowl, but the others bravely accepted a small bowl of this funny-colored soup. We were all pleasantly surprised. In fact, my sister declared it the best split pea soup she's ever tasted!

"Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold,
Pease porridge in the pot, nine days old;
Some like it hot, some like it cold,
Some like it in the pot, nine days old."
Nursery Rhyme
According to Wise Geek, pease porridge is what we call split pea soup today.

Split Peas

Green and yellow split peas
"This is a natural product of the earth."
– from the bag of split peas
Peas are an ancient vegetable, mentioned in the Bible and prized by the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Apicius, who was one of the first cookbook authors in the 4th or 5th century has nine recipes for cooking Ospreos (peas, beans, lentils, chickpeas).

Peas belong to the legume family, like beans and lentils, but they are spherical. A common name for this type of fruit is a "pod". Certain varieties are grown specifically for drying. When the yellow or green peapods are fully mature, they're harvested and dried in the pod. The skin around the pea dries and falls off, and they split naturally (like a peanut). After peas have been dried, they can survive the long, cold winter months. When puréed, they are a natural thickening agent in soups and stews.
National Split Pea Soup Week is celebrated in the United States
at the beginning of November each year.
USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council
After soaking the split peas overnight {although some websites suggest split peas don't need to be soaked overnight}, I tasted both the green and yellow ones and enjoyed their taste. The green ones were milder than the yellow ones, which had a more earthy flavor.

Then, I cooked the vegetables (carrot, onion, leek, and garlic) in some butter along with the bacon. After the vegetables were soft and translucent, I added the drained split peas and chicken stock. I brought the mixture to a boil, reduced the heat, and added the bouquet garni and let the flavors blend for about 40 minutes.

In a separate pot, I made a small batch of rice. I used basmati, since that's all we had in the pantry, but the recipe calls for short-grain rice. {I actually had to make it twice since the first time I added too much salt!} The rice gives this puréed soup a bit of texture.

Next, I puréed the soup in the blender. {Why did I so carefully cut the vegetables into a fine dice?! I guess "chopped fine" is different from "fine dice".} Then, I added the cream and brought the temperature of the soup back up. {I added some extra whole milk to make the soup more soupy and less thick.}

The soup calls for a garnish of wilted sorrel and lettuce. I couldn't find sorrel anywhere, so, after looking it up online, decided to substitute baby spinach. I wilted both in some butter before serving the soup in a tortilla bowl.

Accidental Hedonist has an interesting blurb about the history behind the nursery rhyme and The Old Foodie has some insight into pease porridge that I found interesting. As well, you can watch a video on how to make French Canadian Pea Soup.

"Mess of Pottage"
The curriculum that I'm following called for Potage Esau, which is a very old soup that's mentioned in the Bible. It's in the story of Jacob and Esau, twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah. Although the boys were twins, Esau was the first-born. One day, when the boys were young, Esau returned from hunting very hungry. Jacob seized this opportunity and offered to give his brother some lentil soup if Esau would, in exchange, give up his birthright. Esau, faint with hunger, agreed and the deal was made. (Genesis 25:29-34)

"Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentils; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright."
King James Bible
Le Cordon Bleu at Home cookbook didn't contain a recipe for Potage Esau (lentil soup), so I substituted a split pea soup instead since split peas are in the same family as lentils.

Mise en place for Potage Ambassadeur (Split Pea Soup with Bacon, Sorrel, and Lettuce)You can find the recipe for Potage Ambassadeur (Split Pea Soup with Bacon, Sorrel, and Lettuce) in the book Le Cordon Bleu at Home or here. To see how the rest of the Whisk Wednesdays group fared with this week's recipe, click here (or check out the sidebar) and then click on each blogger!

Tasting Notes
This soup has a smooth, mild gentle flavor with a hint of a smoky bacon taste. Delicious {even though the color of the soup is unappealing}! Next time, I would like to add more ham or bacon or even some curry for extra flavor. I also used half green and half yellow split peas and wonder if using just green split peas would be more flavorful.
I eat my peas with honey
I've done it all my life
It makes the peas taste funny
But it keeps them on the knife!
- Anonymous
I think I'll stick with fresh peas from the pod. That's still my favorite way to eat peas. However, I intend to try a taste test of fresh pea soup versus split pea soup, so stay tuned…

Update: Split Pea versus Fresh Pea Soup

Fresh Peas and Pea SoupToday I made both versions of this soup: one using split peas (only the green kind) and one using fresh peas. I preferred the taste of the soup made with fresh peas. It had a smoother, mellow taste. The one made with split peas had a more starchy, grainy, but brighter taste. My husband liked the split pea version, and I liked the fresh pea version, but we both agreed that they needed more ham or bacon flavor!

Fresh Pea Soup
Soup Summary
This is the last in a series of soups. We've covered

• chunky vegetable soup (Potage cultivateur/Cut vegetable soup)
• puréed fresh vegetable soup (Julienne Darblay/Creamed Leek and Potato Soup with Julienned Vegetables)
• soup made with a liaison of cream and egg yolks (Velouté Agnès Sorel/Cream of Chicken Soup)
• shellfish bisque (Bisque de Homard/Lobster Bisque)
• cold consommé (Consommé Madrilène/Chilled Consommé with Red Peppers and Tomatoes)
• two regional soups (Billy Bi/Mussel Soup and Soupe à l'oignon gratinée/Onion soup)
• puréed soup of dried vegetables

I'm ready for an entrée now!

Next Week (August 27)
• Steak Mirabeau (Beef Tenderloin Steaks with Anchovy Butter) page 426-427

. . . . . . . . . .

Running total: $639.39 + $21.11 (chicken stock) + $8.88 = $669.38

Butter used so far: 7 pounds, 1 tablespoon

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie—Granola Grabbers

Granola Grabbers in ice cream conesA healthy cookie that tastes good. I thought this would be impossible, but Dorie comes through again. I even had to stop my health-nut Dad from grabbing the cookie dough before it was even baked! He was excited to have something healthy to eat instead of all the chocolate desserts and pies I’ve been making lately.

To make them a little more fun, I baked them in the bottom part of an ice cream cone and topped them with a dollop of ice cream and sprinkles.

We were enjoying these outside on the front porch and the local squirrel must have smelled the peanuts and came within an arm’s reach hoping for his own cookie, I imagine!


Ingredients for Granola Grabbers
You can find the recipe for Granola Grabbers in the book Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan or here. To see how the rest of the TWD group fared with this week's recipe, click here and then click on each blogger! Thanks to Michelle of Bad Girl Baking who chose the recipe for this week.

Tips for baking these cookies in ice cream cones: Push the dough right to the bottom of the cone so that there’s a bit of cookie in each bite. Bake them an extra 5-8 minutes in the cones so that the middle gets done.

Granola Grabbers in ice cream conesTasting Notes
These cookies were crunchy, chewy, and full of delicious surprises. I loved the combination of salty peanuts, raisins, coconut, almonds and granola. It makes them seem almost good enough to eat for breakfast! My kids were wishing I’d added chocolate chips, so I may try that next time, but I liked them as is.

Recipe for Next Week (August 26)
Chocolate-Banded Ice Cream Torte on pages 288-289 chosen by Amy of Food, Family and Fun.