Monday, May 31, 2010

Moroccan Spice Cookies

As a part of my rendition of La France, my pièce montée or Croquembouche showed different aspects of La France. Morocco and France go a long way, the former being known as one of the largest emigration countries. From the 30 million Moroccan population, 2 million of Moroccan descent live in Western Europe and France hosts approximately 1 million Moroccans (not counting those of Moroccan descent).
The Moroccan (Maghreb) influence is quite prominent in France, their cuisine being one of the finest and most cherished here. Personally I think they are some of the warmest communities I have come across.
So as a tribute to the lovely country, I picked up some of their essential spices and thought of making a cookie based on these spices!
These are very easy sugar cookies, really very very simple to make, the recipe follows herein:

 1 cup flour
1 tbsps spice mix: Saffron, Paprika, Cinnamon, Cumin, White Pepper, and cardamom
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tbsps milk

* Sift together: flour + spices + salt - set aside.
* Beater butter and sugar till creamy and light.
* Add egg and milk, beat well.
* Stir in flour, mix well. Knead softly into a dough.
* Cover the dough with cling wrap, refridgerate for 1 hour.
* Preheat oven to 180° C.
* On a floured platform, roll out the dough to a thickness you like.
Cut into desired shapes and bake for 10 minutes. Do not brown the cookies!

To get the effect of my cookies, simply decorate the cookies with an icing of your choice, the base colour will be the final shade, so choose accordingly. Then dip the cookies in a pool of coloured sugar and let to dry.. yumm yumm yumm :)

Piece Montee, Croquembouche anyone?

So finally I get around to writing how the piece montée or the croquembouche comes together.
So by now, you should have the 2 essential elements in place,
- the choux pastry/ pâte à choux/ profiteroles
- the filling for the pastry - crème patisserie

Completing the pastry and the filling:
* Fit a plain pastry tip in the piping bag and fill it with the pastry cream.
* Pierce the bottom of every choux with the pastry tip, and fill the choux with the pastry cream. Place on a silicon mat or baking paper.
* If there is too much of humidity around you, keep the filled choux pastry in the fridge till you make the glaze.

Some tips:
To begin with:
* Line your working area with used parchment paper, place your base for the piece montée in the middle, preferably use something you can turn easily, like a turnaround cake plate.
* If you are right handed - keep all your utensils and tools to the right, and similarly left, if you are left handed.
* Most IMPORTANT: the caramel burns like hell even if a drop touches your skin! I am testament to 4 such fingers :) Keep your kitchen sink full of cold water, or keep a bowl of ice cold water near you. A good home remedy to heal burns, rub a slice of raw potato over the burn.
* If you have anything in shape of a cone to model your croquembouche, great! If not, take a round baking pan/ cheesecake mould. This helps in getting a ground round shape.
* If you have enough time, make a sample mock up of the final piece montee, which simply means, make a layout of the end result.
* It would be smart to separate the large choux pastry from the small ones. Try and fill the smaller ones with lesser filling so as to make them lighter which then means they can go on the top!
* It would also be wise to finish dipping the choux into the caramel first and then make another batch of caramel once you have finished dipping all the choux. This will help in having a uniform colour for all the choux pastries.
* The second batch of caramel will be used in gluing all the pieces together and the cooled off version can be used in making sugar decorations.

For the Caramel Glaze: (From Cat's recipe)- has to be made into 2 batches.
1 cup (225 g.) sugar
½ teaspoon lemon juice

Combine sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan with a metal kitchen spoon stirring until the sugar resembles wet sand. 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. Remove from heat immediately; place bottom of pan in ice water to stop the cooking. Use immediately.

The final GO
* At this stage, everything SHOULD have been done: you should have enough already filled choux pastries and the caramel should be hot. You cannot wait for even 5 minutes once you make the caramel, so, time it right.
* Dip the top of each choux pastry into the hot caramel (be careful). Set aside.
* Once you have finished with all the choux pastry, start the assembly process.
* Place the choux next to each other and glue them with the help of the caramel, which means that you will have to dip two opposite sides of the choux to be able to from a circle.
* Continue this till you have completed a round, then start the mounting. When you start assembling on top of each other, you will have to dip the choux on two different sides, one on the downside to glue to the bottom and one opposite side to glue on their neigbours.
* Keep going till you arrive to the conical shape! Et voilà, you have now climbed the highest mountain!!

Unfortunately, since I was alone, I do not have a step by step picture for you. Hopefully I shal have it the next time.

As you will notice in the pictures, I stuck on some Eiffel Tower shaped Moroccan Spice Cookies on the base and the top (like a Christmas tree huh?).

Creme Patisserie

One of the most essential fillings in one too many desserts, the ubiquitous pastry cream usually decides the fate of the entire dessert. It such a delicate thing this, as if the eggs are cooked a little bit too much, it results in a broken or spoilt cream. A broken pastry cream will end and taste like scrambled eggs and just ruins all your efforts.

This was my first attempt at making pastry cream and as per the rules of the May Challenge for the Daring Bakers, we had to follow Cat’s wonderful recipe for the pastry cream.
The 2 different pastry creams I made were:
- Chocolate spiked Tequila Creme
- Chai Creme Patisserie

For the Chocolate Spiked Tequila Crème
1 ¼ cup whole milk to be divided into:
¼ cup will be mixed with cornstarch
¼ cup will be mixed with dark chocolate
½ cup to be mixed with sugar and constitutes the main part of the cooking
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
6 Tbsp. sugar
80 g dark chocolate chopped
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tsp tequila

  • Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk.
  • Combine the remaining ½ cup of milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat.
  • 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.
  • Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.
  • Continue whisking until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. 
  • Bring ¼ cup milk to a boil in a small pan; remove from heat and add in the dark chocolate, finely chopped, and mix until smooth. 
  • Remove from heat and beat in the butter and tequila.
  • Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl.  Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use.

For the Chai Creme Patisserie

1 cup whole milk to be divided into:
¼ cup will be mixed with cornstarch
¾ cup will be boiled with the tea & sugar and constitutes the main part of the cooking
3 Chai teabags / 3 tbsps chai powder
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
6 Tbsp. sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

  • Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk.
  • Combine the remaining ¾ cup of milk with the tea and sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat. Strain the tea if you are not using tea bags.
  • 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.
  • Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.
  • Continue whisking until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. 
  • Remove from heat and beat in the butter and tequila.
  • Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl.  Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use.

Pate a choux

The May challenge with the Daring Bakers was the mighty croquembouche which was posted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake from Paris!
Personally, I think this is not a very pretty dessert unless you are Lenotre :) and the layers of caramel and sweet inside filling don't do much for me. But that's my personal opinion about the visuals of this dessert, one can't do much to make it look pretty. So as I mentioned in my previous post dated ages ago, (yes, laziness is overpowering!) Cat had outlined the recipe excellently and I followed it to the T.

A Croquembouche or rather it should be a Croquenmbouche is the classical ultimate french dessert served at weddings, communions and baptisms. It consists of 3 main components - the choux or profiteroles, the fillings for the choux and the glaze to coat which gives it the crunch and also serves as the sticking glue for the choux. Mounting the choux in the shape of a cone, is fun, but not nice if you are inept at a little bit of geometry, which of course from this post you can figure, I ain't!

The Pate a choux or Profiterole are usually very low in sugar, as its the fillings that give it the exact flavour. Savoury profiteroles are called gougères and they can be filled with purée or minces. The whole principle of

the choux pastry is that it has to be light, airy and not dense in any sense. This is achieved by cooking the dough in advance so that the texture then yields lightness and air pockets when it bakes.

 Here is Cat's recipe for the pâte à chou:

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.
* 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.
* Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.
* Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly. Test the temperature of the dough, it should not be higher than 60°C. Keep stirring till the temperature lowers.
* Add the eggs one by one. The batter will appear limp and clumpy, but don't worry you are on the right track. 
* As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes.
* It is at this point that you will add in the next egg.  Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.
* 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.
* 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.
* Brush tops with egg wash.
* Bake the choux at 425◦F/220◦C degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes. 

For the Challenge, I made:
 - Lavender Pâte à chou - add 5 grams of pulverised lavender to the flour. Pulverised simply means to make into a powder. I then reduced the quantity of flour to 120 grams instead of 125 grams.
- Cardamom Pâte à chou - add 3 teaspoons of cardamom powder to the flour mixture.
- Thyme Pâte à chou- add teaspoons of crushed thyme leaves to the flour mixture.

I leave you with some of the well puffed up profiteroles, towards the end I made them in the shape of roses :) Cool eh?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Daring Bakers May Challenge

Wow, it's already the 27th, life certainly moves fast.. rather speeds ahead :)
So this is my feeble attempt at the first very Daring Bakers Challenge! The Daring Kitchen community is a great place for all foodie lovers and super cool bloggers, and each month a member chooses a theme/recipe for that month's challenge. When I first came across this concept, I thought, wow! This is a great stimulating way to learn different things, and to challenge your own cooking/baking skills.

Now for the month of May, it was Paris's very own LittleMissCupcake who asked bloggers to make the reverred Croquembouche! Looking at the recipe it all sounded so easy, while going through the posts on the forum, I read where experienced bakers said making the croquembouche was easy, so I thought, why not?

And as they say, the rest is history! I based mine around a theme, so all the ingredients are French flavours/spices/herbs influenced by different flavours from the world!
I made three different pâte à choux pastries:
* Lavender Pâte à choux with Chocolate spiked Tequila Creme,
* Cardamom  Pâte à choux with Chai Creme Patisserie
* Thyme Pâte à choux with Ginger Lemon Curd

I know they must sound whacky, but the flavours came around quite well Smile I made some multi-colored macaron shells as decoration and the Eiffel cookies are Moroccan Spice Cookies!

I will be posting Kat's detailed recipe for the Croquembouche this weekend, till then I leave you with my glorious photography :)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The 3 C muffin

My husband P loves muffins, or at least he says so. He’s so kind to say otherwise to anything I make! Ahh, such are the sweet joys of marriage. Or so the initial years they say ;)
I had one too a many packets of Cranberry lying around, and thought of whipping up a batch of tangy muffins for P.
I would to state that this recipe is not original – I have referred to the wonderful Blog of Happy Homebaker from Singapore who shares this ultra cool and easy Cranberry, Orange and Chocolate Chips Muffins recipe. Mine of course has slight changed along its due course to Paris :)

Cranberry, Clementine, ChocoChip Muffins
60 ml olive oil
1 Egg beaten
50 ml fresh clementine juice
Zest of 1 clementine
75 ml milk
100 g honey
250 g multi cereal flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ cup dark chocolate chips
1 cup cranberries chopped

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C
Beat the oil + egg +  juice + milk + honey together for 5 minutes.
Mix in gently flour + baking powder + baking soda + salt + zest
Do not overmix
Fold in chopped cranberries and choco chips
If the mixture is too runny, add another 25 g of flour
With the help of a ice cream scoop, pour the batter into greased muffin moulds or paper lined moulds
Bake for 20-30 minutes or until well done and golden domed

Best had with vanilla icecream!

Gluten Free Blueberry Muffins

This is the last leg of my gluten free craze (at least for now)!


I followed the recipe by I Am Gluten Free for the Blueberry Muffins, although I made a few slight changes here and there, however the entire credit goes to Ellen who is the owner of the original fabulous recipe. 

1 ½ cups rice flour
1 cup gluten free flour
¼ tsp salt
1/2 cup forest honey
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp nutmeg powder
1 ½ cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
¼ cup milk
½ oil/butter
2 eggs
½ tsp vanilla essence

  • Pre-heat oven to 180°C
  • Beat eggs + butter + honey
  • Sift together flour + baking soda + baking powder + salt + nutmeg powder
  • Mix in the flour with the egg mixture
  • Do not overbeat. With a delicate hand, mix in the blueberries, try not to break them.
  • With the help of a ice cream scoop, put the batter into paper lined muffin cups. The mixture should come up to 2/3rd full. 
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes or until well done.

These taste amazing with a nice cuppa tea, or with a large glass of milk!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Gluten Free - du-uh!
I am begining to think that adopting a gluten free life would be ideal, one could let go off that carb fettish. No offence to anyone who has the CD, infact I respect your will power and the great ability to make superlicious food simply by innovating!
Peanut Butter is my weakness, this is one food, that alleviate my moods, make me happy, yet makes me think of all the calories.. but still it is the single best thing in this world. Give me a PBJ Sandwich and I am in la-la land..

This recipe is adopted from Kill the Gluten blog which has some many amazing recipes. Here's a link to their blog, thanks Melanie and Liz for this amazing recipe. I ate a batch of 12 cookies in a row, I know, I am a glutton, but what can one do to a weakness? :P

Gluten Free Banana Nut Bread

I followed this recipe from Gluten Free Goddess’s blog, and basically substituted it with gluten free Patisserie Mix and some Crème de Riz you get at Naturalia – the latest Bio store that has opened up in a few places in Paris. Her recipe calls for using Chocolate Chips; I just substituted that with 1 ½ cups of mixed nuts, as I know C loves them! To make things a bit healthier, I also replaced the sugar with Maple syrup, but if you don't like the taste of it, you can use honey or brown sugar.

1 ½ cup gluten free flour
1 cup rice flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
3 ripe bananas mashed
1/3 cup butter
1 cup maple syrup
2 tsp vanilla essence
1 ½ cup mixed nuts

• Beat the butter and maple syrup together until frothy
• Sift the flours, the baking soda + powder and the salt.
• Add in the flours and vanilla essence to the butter mixture.
• Fold in nuts and the mashed bananas.
• Pour into individual baking cups / mini cake moulds and bake for 40-50 minutes or until well done in a pre-heated oven @ 180°C.

Eat with whipped cream or some dark hot chocolate!

It's A Gluten Free World

It was 5 years ago when I came to Paris, I'd heard about this allergy which I thought would make life unthinkable! Imagine not being able to eat wheat!! When my Friend V mentioned that he is allergic to gluten, I was like - "No way! You're kidding right? how come?? err.. bt you're Indian, how can this be?" Of course, now that I think about it, it sounds so stupid and I sheepishly agree that I was so unaware. But that was back then, and then there is now!
A very dear friend C whose birthday it was a few days ago, shares this allergy with 1% of the US population. Celiac disease and obesity are the latest concerns on the health horizon, and there are some great measures been taking place by revolutionary chefs like Jamie Oliver who has taken the world by storm with his Food Revolution. Viva la revoluzione! 

To make it a special day for C, I decided to embark on a little GF revolution of my own, I read many inspiring blogs like the GlutenFreeGirl, CeliacTeen, GlutenFreeGoddess, SimplyGlutenFree, IAmGlutenFree . I mean these guys are just amazing; they have a whole world going out there! Nothing deters them, which is so very inspiring.. Hats off to you ladies.
So here’s all C got in her little B’Day Gluten Free Hamper:
-          Banana Nut Bread
-          Blueberry Muffins
-          Peanut Butter Chocolate chip Cookies

And then of course there has to be a birthday cake, so I made cute Strawberry Cupcakes with Lemon Frosting. Check for updates soon..

Rose Macaron With Raspberry and Litchi

Well well, what can I say, I’ve been busy.. And Lazeee :)

But, but, but. I did write the enormously long post for the Basic Macaron Recipe. It took me ages, as I wanted to write so many small fine details that have helped me along the way to make good macarons.
The Rose Raspberry and Litchi Macaron are inspired from Pierre Hermé’s Ispahan Macaron, but of course I am sure his would be far superior.. Or maybe not!
Follow the basic macaron recipe and add a few drops of rose essence and some pretty pink colour (btw I hate PINK!).
The filling is very super easy..

The Raspberry Litchi Filling
12 Litchis (canned or fresh)
100 g fresh (frozen will do as well) raspberries
75 g white chocolate (chopped)
50 ml cream

• Chop finely the litchis and place in a pan with the mulled raspberries.
• Add the cream and white chocolate, and cook on a low flame till the chocolate has melted.
• Bring to a boil, reduce flame, cook for 15 minutes on low flame or till the mixture thickens.
• Once cooled, store in the refrigerator for a couple of hours or till it thickens and is a spreadable consistency.

Le GO Final
Use generous portions of the filling to sandwich two same sized macaron shells.