Bruadarach

Scottish Gaelic: Dreamer, Visionary

Month: October 2013

Cookbook Challenge 10 – Vive La France

Vive la France! The next cookbook is an ode to French cuisine and ingredients. As I mentioned in the first post, one of my favourite cookbooks is a French one, so many of the classics are well known to me. This is why it wasn’t too easy for me to find something I hadn’t tried before with the additional challenge to add vanilla. All the savoury dishes were out, but I had my eyes on something special anyway. I’ve always loved eclairs and so does Mick. My problem with eclairs was always that I was a bit too picky about the filling and icing. So making them myself seemed like a great idea. Even though they have the reputation of being a tough thing to make, choux pastry and all.

 

DSC_3782

Eclair

2 Egg yolks
100g icing (I made a lemon-sugar icing but you can also use chocolate icing)

Choux Pastry

60g Butter
125g Flour
4 Eggs
250ml Water

Crème Pâtissier

1 Egg
2 Egg yolks
125g Sugar
40g Flour
500ml Milk
40g Butter
1 Vanilla

 

DSC_3781 DSC_3788

It’s best to start  with the crème pâtissier, so it can cool down and be firm when you fill it into the eclairs. For the crème, put the eggs, the egg yolks and the sugar into a bowl and mix it until it gets foamy. Sieve the flour in and mix it through properly.

DSC_3784DSC_3785

 

Pour the milk and butter into a large pot and add the vanilla. Bring it to the boil. Turn the temperature down and slowly add the egg-flour mix whilst constantly stirring for about 10 minutes. The mass will thicken and get the consistency of vanilla pudding. Sprinkle sugar over the top so the milk won’t get a skin. Then take itoff the heat and put the whole pot in the fridge to cool it down.

DSC_3779 DSC_3780

For the choux pastry, bring the water with the butter to a boil. Pour all the flour in at once and stir it thoroughly until the dough separates from the pot. Take the pot from the stove to add the eggs. Add only one egg yolk at a time and mix it in completely before adding the next. This requires a bit of strength and can get quite exhausting after a while. The dough now needs to rest for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180C.

DSC_3787 DSC_3790

For the icing I mixed the juice of a lemon with icing sugar until it gets thick and put it to the side. Put the choux pastry dough into an icing bag with a round nozzle and dress them onto a tray covered with baking paper. I left about two finger width between them, and admittedly, they looked a bit weird at first. Whilst baking they smooth out but it’s important to leave them in one piece and not be tempted to add more dough to an already dressed eclair if it’s smaller than the others.

DSC_3792 DSC_3793

Coat the dough with mixed egg yolk and put it into the oven for about 20 minutes. Open the oven door for a bit and bake for another 10 minutes.

DSC_3795 DSC_3798

Cut the eclairs carefully in half with a bread knife so they don’t tear. Put the crème pâtissier in an icing bag and fill one half of the eclair. Coat the other half with the icing and let it dry. Then assemble the two halves of the eclair and serve it. If you have crème left over you can freeze it and use it to fill macarons for example.

DSC_3800 DSC_3801

Eclairs are always awesome, but when you fill and coat it with exactly what you want, they are just fantastic. The mixing of the dough was more physical work than I had expected, but it wasn’t a problem. I also learned a lot of dressing the eclairs – I am sure with every time I make them they will look more even. But that’s really just details in the looks and I’m sure they’ll look better and better each time I’ll make them. Which I’m sure I will. I am already thinking a bit about what to put in them next – thinking fresh berries.

 

Cookbook Challenge 9 – Macarons

In Paris, I got a lot of very specialised cookbooks. I got the Crème Brûlée one, which I already had as a challenge and also one for Macarons. I have eaten macarons in France a few times but never cooked them before. For this challenge, I even got a special macaron baking mat for 10 Euro. The extra challenge was that whatever I made had to go well with coffee, that was going to be easy I figured.

 

DSC_3594

 

Caramel Macarons & Vanilla Macarons

190 g almond powder
310 g icing sugar
150 g egg white
95 g caster sugar

Caramel Sauce or
Vanilla crème patissier (see next recipe for eclairs)

 

DSC_3597 DSC_3600

Preheat the oven to 150C. Sieve the almond powder and icing sugar into a bowl and mix them together thoroughly. In another bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff whilst slowly adding the caster sugar. When the egg whites are stiff, add the sugar-nut mix and stir it through properly until it’s a shiny mass. No need to worry about breaking the egg whites. Unlike many classical macarons, I stayed away from food colouring which would’ve been added into the egg whites.

DSC_3602 DSC_3603

To make  sure the macarons fitted together, I got a dedicated mat to bake macarons for 10 EUR. If you have good aim and can make dots that are the same size, you probably won’t need it. For the first batch I used the wrong nozzle for the icing bag. They evened out nicely enough but would’ve been smoother with a plain round one.

Put them in the middle of the oven for about 10 minutes. When you take them out, let them cool off before taking them off of the tray so that the inside will be smoother. I didn’t wait long enough, but since you fill it in the middle, the look of the inside isn’t terribly important. It does make doing a second batch easier if the tray is cleaner.

DSC_3606 DSC_3609

In the end, they were crispy on the outside, and still slightly soft in the middle – just fantastic! I’m not sure if that’s how macarons are supposed to be, but that’s surely the way I like them! If you want them crispy in the middle, it might need a few minutes more.

The first batch of macarons I made with store-bought caramel sauce. Even though it tasted fantastic, it didn’t have the same consistency that one is used to with macarons. In the next challenge, where I made eclairs, I had some vanilla crème patissier left over, so I ended up making another batch of macarons and filling them with the vanilla creme. Also fantastic taste and much more photogenic! Plus that already proves the point that I would make them again, given I did only a few weeks later.

DSC_4219

 

Cookbook Challenge 8 – Jamie At Home

The next challenge was Jamie at Home, a very down-to-earth and seasonal cookbook. I went straight to the autumn recipes, to be able to get the ingredients which were in season already. I was drawn to the mushroom risotto – I love eating it even though I’ve never cooked risotto. Knowing it’s not easy, I was aware that it would test my patience more than anything else… 🙂 The extra challenge was to add something red so… BACON! It’s red enough…

 

Mushroom Risotto

Smoked bacon, chopped into small cubes
1,5 litres hot chicken stock
0,5 kilo of mushrooms (no champignons! I used chanterelle)
1 small onion, chopped into small pieces
2 celery (I’m not too fond of celery so I used 3 spring onions)
400g Risotto Rice
150ml white wine
Salt, Pepper
Olive Oil
Parsley
25g Butter
2 handful grated parmesan (about 100g)

DSC_3613

This time, I learned I need to label the things I froze… What I thought was chicken stock was actually pepper sauce… Anyway, onto the recipe.

DSC_3612 DSC_3610

Bring the chicken stock to the boil and keep it on the heat so it keeps bubbling. Clean the mushrooms, chop a small handful and put the rest aside. In a big pot, heat up olive oil, add the onions and spring onions and sweat them for about 10 minutes without them getting brown. Turn up the temperature, add the risotto rice and stir it all through.

DSC_3611

Add the wine and stir until the rice has absorbed the fluid completely. Then add the finely chopped mushrooms and salt. Reduce the heat again.

DSC_3614

Now the biggest challenge starts – at least it was for me – which has to do with patience. Add a ladle full of stock to the rice and stir until it has absorbed the liquid completely. This now goes on for at least half an hour. Always adding only a ladle full of stock and stirring until the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. The rice is done when it’s still firm but not hard in the middle.

DSC_3608

Cut the rest of the mushrooms in half or smaller, depending on the size, and fry them in a separate pan. Add the bacon, salt, pepper and parsley to the mushrooms. They will lose a lot of water so you might want to drain them a bit whilst frying them.

DSC_3617 DSC_3619

When the risotto is done, take it from the heat, add the butter and most of the parmesan and mix it through properly. Leave some over to sprinkle over the top. The rice should be creamy and you can add more stock if necessary. Put a lid on the pot and let the risotto sit for about 5 minutes. Then try it, maybe add more salt or pepper if necessary.

Put the risotto in a soup plate and add the fried mushrooms with a bit of parmesan over the top.

DSC_3620

This recipe really tested my patience. I should have taken even more time, but the rice was really good. Maybe a tiny bit longer on the stirring side. The risotto tasted fantastic, all around. It wouldn’t necessarily NEED the bacon and the original recipe didn’t have it either, but it added an extra nice flavour to it. The mushrooms in the rice itself gave it a great flavour. With rice and good flavourful mushrooms even I can go vegetarian. So far, Mick was always the risotto cook, mainly because he has more experience and patience. Nevertheless, I was very happy with the result and would surely make it again. Maybe experiment more next time. A fantastic autumn recipe, all around!

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén