Croquembouche

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Take a chance. Try something new and difficult. That’s my lesson for the day! I recently started the “100 Happy Days Challenge” on Instagram, and I’m trying to do things that I’ve been putting off due to lack of time and energy, or purely because fear of failure. One such project is making a Croquembouche. What is that? It’s a tower of cream puffs wrapped in a cage made of spun sugar. Every component of this dessert was new to me, and (in my mind, at least) difficult to make. Of course, given the right amount of time, patience, and guidance from Food 52, nothing is impossible!

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The first step is to make the pastry cream. You need very basic ingredients for this: egg yolks, whole milk, butter, cornstarch, sugar, and vanilla. All things you have in your kitchen, I’m sure. It’s so simple, but so versatile! You can use the pastry cream to fill cakes, eclairs, tarts, and more.

Next, the pate choux, or choux pastry. Easy peasy! Just follow the instructions in the recipe below, and pipe 1 inch rounds onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15-17 minutes at 375 degrees. Once cooled, fill the puffs with pastry cream, and set aside.

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To make the caramel, heat up sugar and water until it becomes a very pale amber. Use this as glue to stick together the cream puffs, and build a tower. For the sugar cage, grab yourself a fork, dip it in the caramel, and twirl all over the tower. Keep doing this until you are satisfied with the way the croquembouche looks.

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It honestly appears so much more difficult that it is, and by the time you’re done, you’ll feel like a professional pastry chef!

Enjoy your weekend,

-G

Croquembouche

Recipe adapted from: http://food52.com/recipes/25406-croquembouche

Serves 4

Pate Choux

  • 1/2cup water
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2+ 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 eggs
Pastry Cream

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/8 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoons butter
  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. On medium-high heat bring the water, butter, sugar, and salt to a simmer. When the butter has completely melted, add the flour and mix vigorously with a wooden spoon. With every bit of elbow grease you can muster, continue mixing for 4 minutes. A mass of dough will form and it will begin to come away from the sides and bottom of the pot. Remove from the heat and transfer dough to a stand mixer outfitted with a paddle attachment. Add eggs one at a time, making sure each is consumed by the dough before you add the next. You can also leave it in the pot and mix by hand.
  3. Cool for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally to release steam. When cool enough to handle, transfer into a piping bag. Pipe out 1-inch rounds. Smooth out any pointy peaks by dipping your finger in water and gently pressing them out; this will ensure an even bake. Bake until golden brown, approximately 20 minutes. Allow them to cool then fill them with pastry cream.
  4. For the pastry cream: In a small heavy-bottomed pot, warm the milk gently to a simmer. If you want to flavor your pastry cream, do so now: You can use vanilla, lavender, or even a chai tea bag. Allow a half hour for the flavors to mature, and then reheat back to a simmer.
  5. Meanwhile, mix the sugar, salt, yolks, and cornstarch together in a bowl. Temper by adding half of the hot milk into eggs, whisking feverishly. Add the egg mixture back to the milk and stir constantly with a wooden spoon on medium high heat until it coats the back of the spoon. Immediately transfer to a bowl and stir a couple minutes to cool down, then add the butter and mix well. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the cream so as not to create a skin. Chill until completely cooled.
  6. Transfer to a piping bag, poke each cream puff gently with the tip of the bag, and fill.
  7. For caramel, place 1/3 cups of sugar and 2 tbsp of water in a pan, stir to combine, and cover. Cook over medium-high for about 15 minutes, until the caramel is a light amber.
  8. With tongs, gently dip each cream puff into the caramel and begin to start stacking your croquembouche. Make sure your base is sturdy and continue upwards. Once you are done mounting reheat, your caramel until it turns a darker shade of amber. Allow to cool for a few minutes until it resembles the constituency of honey, then with a spoon drizzle it about, try to get thin stings of the caramel to wrap around. I also drizzled some ganache over everything and dusted it with powdered sugar.
  9. Eat within 2 to 3 hours, as the caramel will start to soften
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More Brownies!

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Can we have a little celebration right now, please? S and I have officially crossed the finish line of our four year marathon-I’m talking about undergrad! Everything is submitted: exams, posters, theses, and assignments are done done done! What’s that? There’s more school coming up soon?? That’s alright, let’s pretend that’s not true, have a brownie, and then take a loooooong nap!

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I made Peanut Butter White Chocolate Brownies-come on now, just judging by the name, you know it will make you giddy with joy! The peanut butter and chocolate combination is a classic, but when you add mini white chocolate chips, vanilla ice cream, and a warm caramel sauce, it becomes a magical experience. Image

The brownie recipe and overall inspiration is from a blog called Culinary Concoctions by Peabody, and the caramel sauce is modified from Smitten Kitchen’s Salted Caramel, which I had made for the Caramel Brownies a few weeks ago.

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This dessert was the perfect reward for getting through the ordeal that is exam season! Now that this time in our lives is coming to an end, moving on to the next chapter is both scary and exciting. New adventures, new places, new people!

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Just to let you know, there won’t be a post next week, but we will be back in two weeks. Don’t be too devastated! 😛

Thanks to V for the stunning photos!

Have a wonderful week, and see you soon!

-G

 

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Peanut Brownies

http://www.culinaryconcoctionsbypeabody.com/2009/10/03/hello-canada-and-hockey-fans/

4-5 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped finely
¾ cup unsalted butter
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar, lightly packed
½ cup peanut butter
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsalted peanuts, coarsely chopped or white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F.

Spray a 9-x-13-inch pan with baking spray, or butter and flour it.

Using a double boiler, melt together the unsweetened chocolate and butter. When both are melted, remove from boiler and whisk together to blend chocolate and butter fully. Whisk in brown sugar and peanut butter until fully incorporated. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer (or a large bowl and an electric hand mixer) with the whisk attachment on medium speed, whisk together the eggs and granulated sugar until eggs become pale in color, about 2 minutes.

Add the vanilla and beat for another 30 seconds.

With mixer turned off, pour chocolate/peanut butter mixture into the mixing bowl. Mix together on medium speed until chocolate/peanut butter mixture and egg mixture are fully incorporated.

Remove bowl from mixer. Add flour and stir using a wooden spoon. You could keep it in the mixer, but I find if you do this step by hand you tend not to over mix. You want to make sure the flour is fully incorporated but not over mixed. Fold in chopped peanuts if using.

Pour into prepared 9-x-13-inch pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a wooden skewer or sharp knife comes out with a few fudgy crumbles stuck to it.

Caramel Sauce

Modified from Smitten Kitchen

1/2 cup granulated sugar
4-6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/3 cup heavy cream

In a medium, dry saucepan over medium-high heat, melt your sugar; this will take about 5 minutes, stirring if necessary to break up large chunks. By the time it is all melted, if should be a nice copper color; if not, cook until it is. Remove from heat and stir in butter. It may not incorporate entirely but do your best. Stir in cream and salt and return saucepan to the stove over medium-high heat, bringing it back to a simmer and melted again any sugar that solidified. Cook bubbling caramel for a few minutes more, until it is a shade darker.

Mmmm Caramel Brownies!

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I was going through the past posts on our blog recently, and I realized that we only have one brownie recipe! On a website called Sweet Little Brownies, there needs to be more brownie action! A friend of mine sent me the link to this Caramel Brownie recipe, and I thought it would be the perfect addition to our growing repertoire.

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The recipe is from Smitten Kitchen, which is a great blog. I once made her “100% from scratch” marinara sauce, and it was amazing! So, I was not at all hesitant to try this recipe out, and it did not disappoint! I followed the recipe and instructions exactly, and they turned out great!

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These brownies are really yummy! They’re the perfect balance between cakey and fudgey, and then you get the extra oompf from the gooey caramel. To be perfectly honest, they’re one of the best brownies I’ve ever had. The bestest brownies ever are served at a restaurant on campus, and they’re are affectionately called “Crack Brownies” by my friends and I, so I think second place to those is a bit of an achievement.

Below, I included the link to the Smitten Kitchen blog, where you can find detailed process pictures and directions.

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Thanks for coming by this week! Enjoy the beautiful spring weather!

-G

 

Caramel Brownies

From Smitten Kitchen

http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2013/02/salted-caramel-brownies/

Makes 1 8×8 pan of brownies which you can cut into 16 2-inch squares

Caramel
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (or salted, but then ease up on the sea salt)
1/8 teaspoon table salt, more to taste
3 tablespoons heavy cream

Brownie
3 ounces (85 grams) unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 stick (4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, plus extra for pan
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon table salt
2/3 cup (85 grams) all-purpose flour

Make caramel: Set a square of parchment paper over a medium-sized plate. Lightly butter or coat the parchment with a spray oil, just as an added security measure.

In a medium, dry saucepan over medium-high heat, melt your sugar; this will take about 5 minutes, stirring if necessary to break up large chunks. By the time it is all melted, if should be a nice copper color; if not, cook until it is. Remove from heat and stir in butter. It may not incorporate entirely but do your best. Stir in cream and salt and return saucepan to the stove over medium-high heat, bringing it back to a simmer and melted again any sugar that solidified. Cook bubbling caramel for a few minutes more, until it is a shade darker.

Pour out onto parchment-covered plate and transfer plate to your freezer. Freeze until solidified, which can take anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes in a decent freezer to 40 minutes in my terrible one.

Meanwhile, or when your caramel is almost firm, make your brownies: Heat oven to 350°F. Line an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment, extending it up two sides. Butter the parchment or spray it with a nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium heatproof bowl over gently simmering water, melt chocolate and butter together until only a couple unmelted bits remain. Off the heat, stir until smooth and fully melted. You can also do this in the microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring between each. Whisk in sugar, then eggs, one at a time, then vanilla and salt. Stir in flour with a spoon or flexible spatula.

Assemble brownies: When caramel is firm, remove it from the freezer and chop it into rough 1-inch squares. Gently fold all but a small amount of caramel bits into batter. Scrape batter into prepared pan, spreading until mostly even. Scatter remaining caramel bits on top. Bake in heated oven for 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool thoroughly — a process that can be hastened in the freezer, which will also produce cleaner cuts — and cut into squares or other desired shapes.