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

Tarte Tatin

Sometimes success is simply a happy accident. Penicillin, an antibiotic, was actually discovered accidentally by Alexander Fleming, when his petri dishes were contaminated by a fungus called Penicillium notatum. Science, people! Now, in the realm of baking, this apple dessert called a Tarte Tatin was invented by mistake by the Tatin sisters in France. If it wasn’t for one of these ladies overcooking their apples, we wouldn’t have this sweet, caramel-y treat.

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One of my friends made a tarte tatin a few weeks ago (I was lucky enough to try some) and I fell in love with it! It’s a true example of when simple ingredients and some patience come together to make something both impressive and delicious. Do you have apples, butter, flour, sugar, and about an hour on your hands? Make this. You won’t be disappointed!

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This recipe has two components: the crust, and the filling. For the crust, you want to make sure that the butter stays as cold as possible until the tarte tatin is put in the oven, because this will ensure that you have an extremely flaky pastry. The recipe below (from Smitten Kitchen) uses a food processor, but I strongly believe in doing pastry by hand, so I would suggest that you chill all of the ingredients for the crust in the freezer prior to making the crust.

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The filling is just luscious. It’s a combination of apples, butter, and sugar (that’s it) and it will blow you away! I used red delicious apples, as that is what we had at home, but I believe Granny Smith and Golden Delicious are also good options. You really want to caramelize the apples in the butter and sugar, until you reach a dark amber colour, as that will take the apple flavour to the next level.

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Serve this warm with some vanilla ice cream, and life will be good!

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I hope your week is full of happy accidents,

-G

Molly’s Apple Tarte Tatin

Via Smitten Kitchen
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking

Crust
1 stick plus two tablespoons cold salted butter (5 ounces), cut into cubes and chilled in freezer
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
1 1/2 cup flour
3 to 6 tablespoons ice water

Filling
7 medium apples (I’ve had good results with Granny Smith, Gala, McIntosh…use your favorite, but make sure they are very firm, fresh and flavorful.)
1 stick (4 ounces) salted butter
1 cup sugar

Prepare Crust: I always use the food processor for this. Pre-mix the flour and sugar in the food processor container, and cube the butter on a plate. Then put the dry ingredients and the butter in the freezer for a while. This will get everything, including the blade and container, nice and chilled. The colder everything is, the flakier and more tender your crust will be. Prepare about 1/3 cup ice water and refrigerate.

After you’ve chilled everything for at least 20 minutes, add the cubes of butter to dry ingredients and pulse until the largest pieces of butter are no bigger than tiny peas.

Add the ice water a little at a time, processing just until the dough starts to come together into a mass. (it won’t quite be a “ball,” and it won‘t look smooth–you don’t want to overprocess it!) Turn out onto well-floured surface and pat together into a ball. Don’t handle the dough too much, or the warmth of your hands will start to melt the butter. Flour the top of the dough and use rolling pin to quickly press and roll the dough out into a 10 to 11-inch circle. Keep turning the dough as you do this to make sure it doesn’t stick to the rolling surface. Throw more flour underneath the dough if necessary. Check the crust to make sure it’s just big enough to cover the top of your tarte tatin pan. Move the crust onto a piece of parchment paper or onto a floured rimless baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Prepare filling: Preheat oven to 375° F.

Peelcore and quarter the apples. Don’t cut them into smaller pieces than quarters–the quarters shrink considerably during cooking. You can squeeze a bit of lemon on them, but it’s not necessary.

Over low heat in a heavy, ovenproof skillet measuring 7 to 8 inches across the bottom and 10 to 11 inches across the top, melt the stick of butter. Remove from heat, add the sugar and stir until blended.

Shake/tap the pan so the butter-sugar mixture distributes evenly across the bottom.Arrange apple quarters in pan, first making a circle inside the edge of the pan. Place them on their sides and overlap them so you can fit as many as possible. Then fill the center of the pan; you may have some apple left over. Keep at least one extra apple quarter on hand–when you turn the apples over, they may have shrunk to the extent that you’ll need to cheat and fill in the space with an extra piece. This one piece won’t get quite as caramelized as the other pieces, but don’t worry–it will still cook through and no one will notice.

Return your pan to the stovetop on high heat. Let boil for 10 to 12 minutes or until the juices in the pan turn from golden in color to dark amber. Remove from heat. With the tip of a sharp knife, turn apple slices over, keeping them in their original places. If necessary, add an extra slice of apple to keep your arrangement intact. Return to the stovetop on high heat once more. Let cook another 5 minutes and then remove from heat.

Place the crust on top of the apples and brush off excess flour. Tuck edges under slightly, along the inside of the pan, being careful not to burn fingers. You can use your knife.

Bake in oven until the top of the crust is golden-brown in color, about 25-35 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a rack about 30 minutes.

Run a sharp knife along the inside edge of the pan. Place a plate or other serving dish on top of the pan and quickly flip over the whole shebang so the Tarte Tatin drops down onto the plate. The pan will still be hot, so use potholders and be careful! Don’t burn yourself or drop stuff! If you are feeble and clumsy, get someone stronger and more coordinated than you to do this. Peek under the edge of the pan to see if the Tarte came out. You may need to bop the bottom of the pan with your potholder-encased fist for this to happen. If there are any pieces of apple left behind in the pan or otherwise out of place, carefully put them back where they are supposed to be. Voila! A beautiful TREAT!

This keeps well for about a day at room temperature; if you have to refrigerate it, warm it up slightly before serving for optimum enjoyment.