The Bastille Eclair

I’m realizing that in my pursuit to eat all the eclairs in Paris, I’m going to have a hard time writing about the shops that they come from because most patisseries here don’t have their own name. They just say Patisserie or Boulangerie out front. I guess I’ll just refer to the area from what it comes unless the store has its own name.

Anyway, this was my first eclair since the best one at Stohrer (actually, it’s not my first since then, but the first one that’s been worth writing about. Even in Paris you can find a really bad eclair). Right around the corner from me on Rue de La Roquette, is a very cute little patisserie that actually has an extensive display of pastries and breads for just being the corner bakery. I call it the Bastille eclair as you are stones throw away from the Bastille roundabout when you walk up to this patisserie.

I’ve had some bread from here before, but never anything else. After buying some produce at the market the other morning, I went inside to grab a croissant for breakfast. Needless to say, I walked out with 2 croissants and an eclair, since it looked so delicious.Since I had yet to have breakfast, I restrained myself and waited until I got home and had my croissant and coffee before I decided to take a bite out of the eclair. To start, it was definitely on the bigger side of eclairs that I have seen, making it all that much more alluring. I have to figure that getting anything this early in the morning means it has to be somewhat fresh, don’t you think? 

Right after my first bite, I knew that this was a decent eclair, but no where near the level of the Sthorer eclair, which all eclairs will now be compared to. While the pastry cream inside was good, although not quite as rich as I would have liked, the choux dough could not hold it’s own. Yes, I agree that the choux dough should be light, but this was just too light and flaky. As I’ve said, I had some bad eclairs here in Paris, so this definitely was not in the bad category, just not in the perfect category. Since this patisserie is just around the corner, I would certainly go back to grab another one, or maybe even try some of the other yummy things they had on display, but for now, I shall continue to sample more eclairs!!!

Pumpkin Pudding

Yes, I know it’s January, but as I’ve said before, I think pumpkin really should be enjoyed all year round. It’s just so good! And yes, I did bring two cans of pumpkin with me to France (I know, I’m crazy). One I used back in Marseille for my pumpkin cake that I made for Christmas and I was saving my second can for something super special. I saw this recipe and realized this indeed was a special recipe. 

I had actually seen this pudding back around Thanksgiving, but over Thanksgiving I was so dead set on only have pies for desserts that I looked past anything that wasn’t in a pie shell. In retrospect, this would have been a wonderful addition to the dessert feast and I am certainly already thinking about making it next year. 

Ya, it’s a pretty basic recipe, but the results are delicious. It’s like eating straight from the inside of a pumpkin pie, skipping the crust completely. Heating of the ingredients gives it a silky smooth texture and although you’re supposed to let them cool to room temperature before you serve, I snagged one right off the pan and it was pretty tasty warm as well. I bet if you added some stiff egg whites to this, it would be even more mousse like and equally as delicious. As usual, I doubled the spices, and actually used more nutmeg and pumpkin pie spice instead of the ginger and cloves as I didn’t have any of those my limited spice collection. The pudding sinks a little bit in the ramekins after a few minutes out of the oven, but topping them with some whipped cream makes up for the lost space in the ramekin. Speaking of whipped cream, beating whipped cream by hand is a PAIN IN MY BUTT! I think I spent 15 minutes whipping before my arm basically gave out and I still didn’t have anything resembling whipped cream (I was too depressed to take a picture, but you’ll have to believe me).

PUMPKIN PUDDING

(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 3/4 cups (from a 15-ounce can) pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Whisk together pumpkin, sugar, salt and spices in a saucepan.
  3. Heat over medium-high. Once glurping and simmering in the pot, cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. The mixture will thicken and get a bit darker. Reduce heat slightly and whisk in milk and cream. Off the heat, slowly whisk in eggs.
  5. Divide between 7 to 8 ovenproof 6-ounce pudding cups or ramekins on a baking sheet (I used 4 ramekins and 3 mini espresso cups)
  6.  Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until puddings barely jiggle when shimmied and/or a knife tip inserted into the center of puddings comes out clean. Try not to overbake.
  7. Top with whipped cream!

A Day of Love

Valentine’s is right around the corner and in my opinion, the Hallmarkification of this holiday is fine because it just means that I can bake all that much more without any remorse. “It’s Valentine’s Day? Chocolate? No problem!”  It’s great! I’ve also spent many hours making holiday cards and plan on running to Michael’s the moment this holiday is over to stock up on discounted Valentine’s craft things for next year. So whether you’re not a Valentine’s Day fan, or are going to be having an amorous day about town – these recipes are bound to please.

I believe that I have written of the famous Julia Childs mousse in a previous posting. Well, I have made it yet again with this sublime recipe. This mousse is just slightly labor-intensive but so worth it. It comes out the perfect texture: between light & airy and thick & creamy. And after all: isn’t chocolate the ultimate aphrodisiac?

Chocolate Mousse

(Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 6 ounces unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup dark-brewed coffee
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 3/4 superfine sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange liqueur
  • 4 egg whites
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tbs sugar

DIRECTIONS:

1) Heat a saucepan one-third full with hot water, and in a bowl set on top, melt together the chocolate, butter and coffee, stirring over the barely simmering water, until smooth. Remove from heat.

2) In a bowl large enough to nest securely on the saucepan of simmering water, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture is thick, like runny mayonnaise.(3-4 minutes) Beat in orange liquer.

3) Continue to beat mixture over an ice bath for an additional 3-4 minutes.

4) Beat the chocolate into the egg yolks and sugar.

5) In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until frothy. Continue to beat until they start to hold their shape. Whip in the tablespoon of sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks are formed.

6) Fold one-third of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the remainder of the whites just until incorporated, but don’t overdo it or the mousse will lose volume.

7) Transfer the mousse to a serving bowl or divide into serving dishes, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, until firm.

8) Enjoy!

But of course, mousse wasn’t enough for this holiday: I also made these sumptuous Red Velvet Cake Balls. After a trek through New York City to find red velvet cake mix on Valentine’s Day (it’s worse than finding a pumpkin on Halloween!), I was able to purchase the last box the store had. The deep, lustrous red of the cake mix was really necessary for these cake balls. The rich and chocolatey texture of the inside (my roommates even referred to them as truffles) with the firm white chocolate outside made for a perfect Valentine’s combo. I even sprinkled some pink luster dust for a festive finishing touch.

Red Velvet Cake Balls

(Adapted from Bakerella)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 box red velvet cake mix (cook as directed on box for 13 X 9 cake)
  • 1 can cream cheese frosting (16 oz.)
  • 1 package chocolate bark (regular or white chocolate)

DIRECTIONS:

1) After cake is cooked and cooled completely, crumble into large bowl.

2) Mix thoroughly with 1 can cream cheese frosting. (It may be easier to use fingers to mix together, but be warned it will get messy.)

3) Roll mixture into quarter size balls and lay on cookie sheet.

4) Chill for several hours. (You can speed this up by putting in the freezer.)

5) Melt chocolate in microwave per directions on package.  (Or over a double boiler as I did, being careful not to burn the chocolate)

6) Roll balls in chocolate and lay on wax paper until firm. (Use a spoon to dip and roll in chocolate and then tap off extra.)

7) Enjoy!

January Daring Baker’s Challenge: Biscuit Jaconde

I feel like I keep tacking onto my New Year’s Resolutions, but since it’s still only January – at least for one more day – I think that it’s okay. To add on to more baking, more blog updating, and more bread, I know want to go the whole year and do every single Daring Baker’s Challenge. I can already foresee some problems that I will face as the year wears on, but at least I can say I will try.

The January 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of the blog accro. She chose to challenge everyone to make a Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around an Entremets dessert. I’m not going to lie, this was one of the more difficult challanges that I have done. I’m not even going to go into what went wrong with my biscuit jaconde, because I myself don’t quite know what was wrong with it, but the truth is that the mousse inside was what made the dish amazing. I made some of Ms. Julia Childs’s classic chocolate mousse that was the perfect accompaniment to the spongy jaconde cake that I tried to make.

As we sat around the table eating the mousse, my roommates pointed out that it was like eating fluffy dough – the denseness of cookie dough with the fluffiness of mouse. I’m not quite sure what that means, but it sounds good! The cake didn’t make it in the fridge for more than a day or two before it was licked clean off the plate. I always have Mastering the Art of French Cooking at the back of my cookbook shelf and never quite take advantage of all the amazing recipes it has to offer.

At the end of the day, I realized that while the jaconde didn’t quite turn out how I wanted it, the whole process, which took more than a few hours, was well worth it as I discovered the most amazing mousse recipe in the entire world. I plan on making the mousse again very soon, sans jaconde, and am hoping that it works out just as well.