Bruadarach

Scottish Gaelic: Dreamer, Visionary

Tag: Vanilla

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.

 

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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

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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)

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Cookbook Challenge 5 – Crèmes Brûlées

A cookbook full of crème brûlée recipes, straight out of Paris, that must be a winner. I was incredibly intrigued by the different flavours they suggested to put in. That being said, I’m usually rather conservative with my crème brûlée. I once had a lemongrass one, and it wasn’t my piece of cake. So I was going to make sure I’d make one that fits – at least in my head – better with the vanilla and caramel flavour of the original recipe.

The extra challenge was to change an ingredient – since I didn’t have vanilla extract at home, I just used vanilla sugar instead. I moved past the savoury crème brûlées – I wasn’t THAT adventurous – and settled on a coffee one.

 

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Crème Brûlée au Café

10 cl milk
30 cl liquid crème fraîche
1/2 tea spoon liquid vanilla (i used vanilla sugar, but fresh vanilla is possible too)
10 cl of strong, fresh coffe
3 eggs
3 egg whites
100 g of icing sugar
1 spoonful ground coffee
50 g castor sugar
80 g brown sugar

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Preheat the oven to 210C.

Heat up the milk, cream and vanilla sugar in a large pot and bring it to the boil. Then add the coffee and take it off the heat.

In a large bowl, mix the eggs with the icing sugar until it’s even and foamy.

Mix it into the pot with the milk.

Put the forms for the crème brûlée into a water bath and pour the mix in.

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The crème needs about 30-45 min in the oven, depending on the size. Turn down the heat after 10 minutes because the water from the water bath shouldn’t boil. With a toothpick you can test if the crème is ready – if you stick it in, there should be no soupy cream stuck to it anymore. The top usually ends up brown.

When it’s finished, take it out of the oven, let it cool down and then put it in the fridge for about two hours. It’s not an absolute necessity, but it helps the crème settle.

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For the crust, mix the castor sugar with the ground coffee and spread a layer on the crème brûlée. Afterwards, put a layer of brown sugar on top of it. Caramelise it under the grill for about 5 minutes or with a crème brûlée torch. The crust gets darker with the coffee grains in it, at first I thought it was a bit burnt.

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This is where my biggest criticism of the cookbook comes in – the time and temperature in the oven were completely off. According to the book, it would’ve been 45min at 110C. I lost track of time, and when I checked after 55min, it was still a caramel soup. Since I had put them in glass forms, it was clearly visible that there was still a lot of foam on top an it hadn’t settled at all. Then I went back to my La Bonne Grand Mère cookbook (one of my favourite ones, which I mentioned in the introduction), where it states actually 210C. So I turned the heat up and about 15min later they were finally ready. The quantities were spot-on, but the timings were off. Luckily, I had made crème brûlée already multiple times, I knew what to look for as far as consistency is concerned and how to check. I would use the cookbook again, but rely more on experience than their suggestions when it comes to the oven.

The crème brûlée itself was really nice with a subtle hint of coffee. The taste of coffee might get lost if you have it with a cup of coffee, so you might want to have it with something else. It can always taste more like coffee in my opinion, but that’s a thing of taste. Crème brûlée is one of my favourite desserts so I wouldn’t have gone too crazy with it. I certainly enjoyed it with the coffee flavour and would definitely make it again.

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