Thursday, May 27, 2010

May 27, 2010: Daring Baker's Piece Montee

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

This month’s challenge recipe is for a Piece Montée, which means literally “mounted piece.” You may know this dessert by another name – Croquembouche (“crunch in the mouth”). I have been fascinated by this dessert for a loooong time. In fact, I saw Martha Stewart make one on her TV show about 15 years ago and have always wanted to try my hand at one, though never had a good enough excuse…until now! In all seriousness, the piece montée is the traditional wedding cake here in France. They are often served at baptisms and communions as well.

The classic piece montée is a high pyramid/cone made of profiteroles (cream-filled puff pastries) sometimes dipped in chocolate, bound with caramel, and usually decorated with threads of caramel, sugared almonds, chocolate, flowers, or ribbons. Modern pastry chefs have taken to assembling this dessert in all manners of shapes and sizes, and you should feel free to express your creativity too!

Recipe Source: The recipes for this month’s challenge come from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and were originally created by famed pastry chef, Nick Malgieri. Please note you must make your own pate a choux (puff pastry) and crème patissiere. And your piece montée needs to be a mounted structure with some height to it.

Note: This recipe has 3 main components: the pate a choux, the crème patissiere, and the glaze used to mount/decorate it. While you can purchase or make a cardboard conical structure to build your piece montée or use toothpicks as an aid, it is relatively easy to assemble it using just the baked pate a choux as the main building blocks and the glaze as the glue.

[Oh, No!
Pate a Choux is my archnemesis from a previous Daring Baker's Eclair Challenge. Pate a Choux is easy in terms of concept and making, but for some reason I had a difficult time getting the rise while baking in the oven. Hopefully this time around things will be different.]

[I made the Chocolate Pastry Cream.]
Vanilla Crème Patissiere (Half Batch)
1 cup (225 ml.) whole milk
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
6 Tbsp. (100 g.) sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp. (30 g.) unsalted butter
1 Tsp. Vanilla

Ingredients are pretty straight forward...

1. Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat.

2. Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornstarch mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook.

[Here I'm tempering the egg yolk mixture with a little of the hot milk. This slowly warms up the egg mixture so we don't end up with scrambled eggs.]

3. Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.

4. Continue whisking (this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla. [Since I'm adding chocolate, I held off on the butter until the end.]

For Chocolate Pastry Cream (Half Batch Recipe):
¼ cup (about 50 cl.) milk
3 ounces (about 80 g.) semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

5. Milk and chocolate were heated in the microwave... about 30 to 45 seconds. I waited about a minute before mixing.

6. Mix until smooth. [Note: I also added the butter here from step 4.]

7. Whisk into pastry cream when you add the butter and vanilla.

[At this stage, the chocolate is smooth, but seem loose. However, the pastry cream is pretty thick.]

8. Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use.
[Note: For some reason, the pastry cream did not thicken in the fridge, it turned out like a soft pudding sauce.

My solution: I recooked the pastry cream and added another 1 T of cornstarch/1T water to thicken the pastry cream. Below are the lumpy results. I chilled the pastry cream and pressed through a fine sieve to mash out the lumps.]

Pate a Choux (Yield: About 28)
¾ cup (175 ml.) water
6 Tbsp. (85 g.) unsalted butter
¼ Tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup (125 g.) all-purpose flour
4 large eggs

For Egg Wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt

Pre-heat oven to 425◦F/220◦C degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Preparing batter:
1. Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely.

[Sifting the flour into the hot liquid.]

2. Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.

[Note to self: Try making pate a choux in a steel pan. I'm using a non-stick pan so it's hard to gage when the pate a choux is pulling away from the sides. Instead, I cooked about 5 minutes.]

3. Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.

4. Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny.

5. As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes.

6. It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.

[Patiently mix the egg in. You want the dough to form soft peaks when you pull the spoon out of the batter... so you may not need all of the last egg. However, I did use the entire fourth egg.]

7. Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip (I piped directly from the bag opening without a tip). Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide.

8. Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top.

9. Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with pinch of salt).

[The egg wash will give the baked choux a nice brown appearance.]

10. Bake the choux at 425◦F/220◦C degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes.

11. Lower the temperature to 350◦F/180◦C degrees and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool.

[Out of the oven... looking good.]

[I have a couple flat choux which will probably puff up when I fill, but most likely they'll just be eaten as samples/quality control. lol]

12. Can be stored in a airtight box overnight.

When you are ready to assemble your piece montée, using a plain pastry tip, pierce the bottom of each choux. Fill the choux with pastry cream using either the same tip or a star tip, and place on a paper-lined sheet. Choux can be refrigerated briefly at this point while you make your glaze.

Use one of these to top your choux and assemble your piece montée.

Hard Caramel Glaze:
1 cup (225 g.) sugar
½ teaspoon lemon juice

[Warning! Be careful when working with hot sugar... This stuff is 300F. I absentmindedly tried to knock a drop of this stuff off a bowl and it stuck to my finger. HOT!]

1. Combine sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan with a metal kitchen spoon stirring until the sugar resembles wet sand.

2. Place on medium heat; heat without stirring until sugar starts to melt around the sides of the pan and the center begins to smoke. Begin to stir sugar. Continue heating, stirring occasionally until the sugar is a clear, amber color.

3. Remove from heat immediately; place bottom of pan in ice water to stop the cooking. Use immediately. [I did not do this step... If I cooled too quickly the sugar would solidify before I could get to it.]

Assembly of your Piece Montée:

You may want to lay out your unfilled, unglazed choux in a practice design to get a feel for how to assemble the final dessert. For example, if making a conical shape, trace a circle (no bigger than 8 inches) on a piece of parchment to use as a pattern. Then take some of the larger choux and assemble them in the circle for the bottom layer. Practice seeing which pieces fit together best.

Once you are ready to assemble your piece montée, dip the top of each choux in your glaze (careful it may be still hot!), and start assembling on your cake board/plate/sheet. Continue dipping and adding choux in levels using the glaze to hold them together as you build up. (You may want to use toothpicks to hold them in place – see video #4 below).

When you have finished the design of your piece montée, you may drizzle with remaining glaze or use ribbons, sugar cookie cut-outs, almonds, flowers, etc. to decorate.

[The finished Piece Montee, Croquembouche]

The pate a choux turned out. The chocolate pastry cream was a problem so I'll probably use a different recipe next time. I thought the hard caramel would be chewy, but as the name "croquemboche" implies there was a nice crunch to the cream puffs.

Overall, flavors were good. The pate a choux and the spun sugar/hard caramel worked together to give a crunchy cream puff.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

May 25, 2010: Tofu Tuesday - Ginger Tofu Fa

After the last Tofu Tuesday's Mango Pudding, I wanted to make another sweet tofu dish.

The best tofu for this dish is silken tofu.

The following is my improvised recipe. Trying to keep it simple:

Silken Tofu in Ginger Syrup

1 lb Silken Tofu
1 C Water
1 11 oz Can Mandarin Oranges, drained with juices reserved
1 Chunk Ginger
1/4 C Sugar
3 Slices Candied Ginger, Julienned

1) 1 Cup of water and the drained syrup from the oranges gave me 1 1/2 C of liquid.

2) Peel and slice the ginger.
I picked up a tip on skinning ginger from all the cooking shows I watch.
Instead of using a vegetable peeler, you can use a spoon to scrape off the skin, which worked very well.

3) Simmer the tofu, sliced fresh ginger, liquid and sugar for about 20-30 minutes. Flip the tofu block after 10 to 15 minutes.

When done, I strained out the fresh ginger and chilled the tofu and syrup.

4) The chilled tofu fa was sliced and mixed with the oranges.
Garnished with the candied ginger.

The finished dish...
Slightly sweet and mildly gingery.
You can still taste the tofu, which is fine by me. I don't like overly sweet desserts.
However, if you want a stronger syrup, the sugar can be increased to suit your preferences.

I think this is a nice refreshing dish best served cold. :-)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

May 23, 2010: Onion Apple Jam

Onions, for some reason unknown to me, have been very expensive at over $1 per pound. I'm used to seeing onions at half that price.
I thought I'd be smart and buy a large 5 lbf bag of onions. The problem with buying a large bag is that you need to go through a lot of onions before they rot out. I was at that point trying to decide what to do with a mass of onions... Something I've always wanted to try - Onion Jam.

Onion jam isn't really a canned product, but more of a slow cooked oniony, favory, bacony, sweetish condiment.
Here's my go at Onion-Apple Jam

Onion Apple Jam
5 Onions, sliced (about 6 cups)
2 slices Bacon, chopped
1 Apple, chopped (I had Pink Lady)
1/2 C Chicken Broth
1 T Apple Cider Vinegar
1 t Brown Sugar
Couple pinches of Thyme
Few Grinds of Black Pepper
Couple pinches of Salt

1) Brown the chopped bacon - render the oil, remove bacon and reserve.

2) While the bacon is cooking, slice the onions... not too fine unless you want them to melt when they cook down.

3) Add the onions, a couple pinches of salt, thyme and a few grinds of black pepper.
Stir to mix. Cover, lower heat to slowly cook the onions.

4) When the onions are soft, taste... I wanted just a touch more sweetness so I added 1 t of brown sugar. Add the vinegar, stock and apples.
Increase heat to medium to futher browning and reducing.

5) The finished Onion-Apple Jam... Ready to be used.

Sweet onion flavor, with a little tartness from the apple cider vinegar, texture and sweetness from the apple with a hint of smokiness.

Possible usage - as a condiment served with pork chops.
Brings new meaning to "pork chops and apple sauce." :-)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

May 20, 2010: Stacked Enchilada Again!

I decided to redo this month's Daring Cook challenge, Stacked Enchilada . I wasn't keen on the mushy results so I wanted to see if frying the tortillas more, until crispy would make a difference. Also, I had enchilada sauce leftover from last night.

Red Stacked Enchiladas.

12 Corn Tortillas
2 C Chorizo and Potato
2 C Enchilada Sauce
4 oz Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded (my last bit)

1. Fry the tortillas about 1 to 2 minutes per side until brownish and stiff.

2. Coat with enchilada sauce.

3. Add half the potato mixture... followed by another layer of tortillas, potato and a final layer of tortillas.

4. Bake 425 F for 20 minutes. For the last 5 minutes, add the shredded cheese to melt.

5. Let rest about 5 minutes before serving... nice, melted cheese! :-)

6. Served with avocado, lettuce and salsa.

Flavors were good. The center wasn't as mushy as last time, but still soft.
I think I'm just not a stacked enchilada type of person. My preference is for rolled enchiladas. :-)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

May 19, 2010: Chile Rellenos

Quick quiz:
What do you do when you have roasted pepper, cheese, eggs and chorizo/potato filling?

Answer: Make chili rellenos (battered stuffed chile peppers)!

I was trying to decide what to do with the leftover roasted chiles. While watching a Mexican cooking show. I don't remember which one. There was a segment on chile rellenos where they showed a cook making the batter with beaten egg whites and egg yolk.

Hey! I can do that! I've always wanted to make chile rellenos, but I that the batter was a big deal, but whipped egg whites and egg yolks I can do.

I just improvised on this recipe.

Chile Rellenos

4 Pobalano Chiles, roasted (not too soft since you will be stuffing), skinned and seeded
1 1/2 C Chorizo and Potato filling
4 oz Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded - that's all I had left.
2 eggs, separated (egg whites whipped to soft peaks before adding egg yolks)
1/2 t salt
Flour for dusting
Enchilada Sauce [I used canned sauce]

Seeding the Peppers
1. Since the intent is to stuff the pepper, make 1 slit into the pepper so you can remove the seeds and vein. Use a paring knife to cut the seeds away from the stem.

2. I found that using a spoon helps with skinning and scooping out the seeds.

3. Mix the cheese into the potato mixture.

4. Stuff the pepper. You don't want to overstuff it since you want the pepper to trap the ingredients. You can gently cradle the pepper as you fill. Use toothpicks as needed to suture the pepper.

5. Making the batter - eggs whipped to soft peaks. Egg yolks and salt added and mixed in.

6. Lightly coat each pepper with flour and dip into the batter. The stem makes for a nice handle. :-)

7. Coat thoroughly and off to the fryer.

8. Fry in 350F oil. Cook each side about 2 to 3 minutes.

9. Drain before serving
Remember to remove the toothpicks!

10. Served with enchilada sauce, queso blanco, shredded lettuce and salsa.
Remind your guest to watch for toothpicks! :-)

11. Ready for a bite. Potatoes and surprisingly cheesy. :-) The lettuce adds a nice crunchy contrast to the stuffed chile.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

May 18, 2010: Chorizo and Potato

The thing about grinding your own and using fresh ingredients is that meat can go off a little quicker.

I cooked the chorizo with potatoes so that I can use for other dishes without having to worry about the pork going off.

1 lb Green Chorizo
5 Potatoes, 1/2" dice (about 3 to 4 C)
1 C Broth
1 t Dried Parsley
1 Clove Garlic, minced
Salt, Pepper and hot sauce to taste

1. Pan fry the chorizo about 5 to 7 minutes.
[Note: Steam is giving the photo a blurry appearance.]

2. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer... about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. Since I planed to use in other dishes, I tried not to overcook the potatoes.
[Note: Steam is giving the photo a blurry appearance.]

The key to this week is quick and simple. Can't go wrong with meat and potatoes. :-)

Monday, May 17, 2010

May 17, 2010: Green Chorizo Torta

The chorizo has melded overnight. I decided to make a simple, quick meat with it. A green chorizo torta. A torta is a Mexican sandwich served on a round roll.

Two 4 oz patties.

Cooked about 7 minutes on the GFG.

While the patty was cooking, I made a Serrano chile mayo. It's not a normal tartar sauce as it would appear. :-)

The rest of the toppings - shredded lettuce, salsa, avocado and sliced tomatoes.

The finished sandwich - dressed.

Ready for a big bite!

That sandwich was good, but I expected the chorizo to pack a little more punch. I'll have to double up on the peppers and make sure I puree all that stuff before mixing with the pork.