Daring Bakers: Chocolate Éclairs

Posted by: on Aug 30, 2008 | 21 Comments

Daring Bakers: Eclairs, originally uploaded by jasonrr.

I have been meaning to learn to make pâte à choux (cream puff dough) for a while. It was on my list of summer things to do, along with cheese making which has yet to be accomplished. Although I was super excited when I saw the Daring Bakers recipe for August, I decided to wait until the end of the month to make these because there are a slew of birthday’s in our family. What goes better with birthday cake than éclairs?

Although we had quite a bit of creative leeway with this challenge, I chose to keep it simple with a dark chocolate glaze and vanilla pastry cream. I made the recipe below for chocolate pastry cream and just left out the chocolate. The resulting pastry cream was a little heavy for my taste but I lightened it up with some whipped cream. You know a dessert is serious if you are using whipped cream to lighten it up. :)

I baked the éclairs the night before despite the directions saying not to. They were softer the next day than I wanted. I actually put them in toaster for two minutes to crisp them up a bit. It seemed to work fine. I thought they tasted really good and everyone else seemed to agree.

Thanks to MeetaK and Tony Tahon for hosting this month’s challenge!! Check out the other Éclairs on the Daring Bakers Blogroll!

Click below to see the recipe for Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs


Operation Baking GALS Round Two

Posted by: on Aug 30, 2008 | 2 Comments

I participated in the second round of Operation Baking GALS sending cookies and baked goods to the troops. I heard about this through the Daring Bakers boards, and it seemed like a good reason to bake a bunch of cookies. Dorie Greenspan recently did a post about the group that you can read here. The cookies that I baked went to LT Eric Olsen, who is stationed on the USS Lincoln. You can click here to see the other bakers on Team Steph Chows that sent cookies to LT Olsen and his crewmates. I tried to use recipes that would hold up well while the cookies were being shipped.

I baked this recipe for Chocolate Cookies featured on RecipeGirl.com. I didn’t grind the oatmeal and it was definitely noticeable in the cookies. They were still good but next time I would probably go ahead and break out the food processor. I am hoping that the lemon juice in these will act as a kind of preservative.

I also baked Tyler Florence’s recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies but instead of chocolate chips, I added dried cranberries and pecans. I love this cookie recipe, and I though it came out even better with the cranberries and nuts. I will definitely make these again, and I know from experience that they will last a really long time if stored in an airtight container.

If you are interested in participating in Operation Baking GALS Round 3, check out the blog located here.


Coconut Zucchini Bread

Posted by: on Aug 27, 2008 | 4 Comments

Coconut Zucchini Bread (in the wild), originally uploaded by jasonrr.

J took this picture of me while we were taking a break from hiking. I think it came out kind of cool. We ate this with lunch after our zucchini cake breakfast in the second installment of what J termed Zucchinifest 08.

I went searching for a simple zucchini bread recipe, and I found this one at About.com. I made several changes to the recipe noted below. I was really happy with results. I have had zucchini bread countless times, but I have never actually made it. i never seem to want to sacrifice zucchini for baked goods. I think that the coconut really made this recipe. I reduced the sugar and I think that it may have not had enough flavor without it. J hates nuts or raisins in baked goods because he is crazy. I left them out but I am sure that it would be good with them added.

Here is a picture from the top of the trail on our hike. The weather was strangely foggy when we reached the top. By the time we got to the bottom, it was perfectly sunny.

Coconut Zucchini Bread
Based on this recipe from About.com

3 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil (I used olive)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups grated zucchini
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oatmeal (not instant)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Beat eggs until light and foamy; add vegetable oil, sugar, zucchini and vanilla. Mix lightly but blend thoroughly.
Mix together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon; mix lightly. Add dry ingredients to first mixture, stirring to blend. Stir in 1/4 cup of coconut flakes.
Pour batter into two loaf pans 9x5x3-inches in size. Top with a small amount of coconut. Bake at 325° for 50 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted near center of a loaf comes out clean.

Next up our zucchini dinner…


Zucchini Cakes with Scrambled Eggs

Posted by: on Aug 25, 2008 | 2 Comments

Zucchini Cakes, originally uploaded by jasonrr.

This will be the first in a series of zucchini posts. We had two huge zucchini that were on the verge of being overripe. I decided that it would be a fun idea to eat zucchini with every meal. I have a perverse idea of fun. This was the breakfast incarnation: zucchini cakes with scrambled eggs. I wanted these cakes to be pretty light in terms of flavor and texture to keep them ‘breakfasty’. We ate them right before going on a three hour hike so I knew that they also had to be filling.  Paired with eggs, it made a really good breakfast.  I grated the zucchini the night before. I tried to drain as much water off as possible. I put the grated zucchini in a covered colander overnight in the refrigerator.

Zucchini Cakes
1 cup grated zucchini, this should be well drained and firmly pressed
1 tsp finely chopped onion
1 egg
3 tbsp all purpose flour
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground pepper
a few tbsp olive oil for pan frying

Combine the zucchini with egg and chopped onion. Stir in the flour and salt and pepper until the mixture is well combined.
Heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a skillet. I found that this made enough for four evenly sized cakes of about a ¼ cup each. Cook until brown on both sides, pressing down slightly to release and extra moisture. Drain on paper towel and top with a pinch of kosher salt.
My original intent was to serve this with poached eggs and ham. But I only had two eggs and was out of ham. So, we had this with scrambled eggs with a bit of cheddar cheese. It was still really good. If I had a potato, I would probably add it to the cakes in the future. I think it would give them a slightly firmer texture, more like a latke.


Peach Yogurt Parfait

Posted by: on Aug 22, 2008 | 3 Comments

Peach Yogurt Parfait, originally uploaded by jasonrr.

This week was pretty rough. My family’s beloved dog Rex had to be put down due to cancer. He was only sick for two days, and it was really a shock. We will all miss him so much. I said that I would come go over to my mom’s for dinner but I knew she wouldn’t want ‘real food’ so I made this. Sometimes food can make things a little better.
J and I also ate this later in the week, and that’s when this photo was taken. All things aside, this was really good and comforting, and peaches are currently in season in the northeast.

1 White Peach per dish, sliced
1/2 cup plain Greek Yogurt per dish
2 tablespoons granola (recipe below)
1/2 tsp honey

I layered each element and topped it with a bit of honey to sweeten the yogurt.

For the granola:
1 cup whole oats
1/4 chopped pecans
4 tbsp honey
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cinnamon

Combine these until the oats are covered with honey and butter. Spread in an even layer and bake until golden at 350. This will take about 20-25 minutes. You will want to keep an eye on the pecans to prevent them from burning.


Zucchini and Squash Gratin

Posted by: on Aug 18, 2008 | 4 Comments

Zucchini and Squash Gratin, originally uploaded by jasonrr.

Its zucchini season! I bought some zucchini the other day, and I was just gifted some more from J’s uncles garden. So there will be even more zucchini posts to come! We ate this as a main course the other night. While I think just about anything would be good covered in cheese and baked, zucchini and squash are particularly good.

1 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
1 medium squash, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
1 small chopped onion
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
2/3 cup milk
1 tbsp flour
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
1 tsp fresh thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 pepper
1/2 cup grated swiss or gruyere cheese
2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese

Sautee the onion in olive oil. Add the zucchini and squash an sautee lightly.
melt butter in a small saucepan and stir in flour. Continue to stir for 30 seconds and whisk in mlik. add salt pepper and chopped garlic. Allow the sauce to simmer for about 5 minutes.

In two small baking dishes (or 1 large one) alternate layers of zucchini, squash, fresh thyme and sauteed onions. Spoon enough sauce over the top to almost cover the vegetables (the amount will vary on your dish but I used about 1/3 cup per dish. Top with grated gruyere and parmesan. Bake at 350 until is it is bubbly and browned on top.


Triple Berry Cake

Posted by: on Aug 16, 2008 | 6 Comments

Triple Berry Cake Slice, originally uploaded by jasonrr.

I came up with this recipe for the Berry Contest over at Key Ingredient’s Back Burner. I wanted the cake to have a spongy texture that would work with all the berries in this. The cake ended up reminding me of these Italian cookies that my grandmother used to make. They were a little lemony with a really pleasant texture. This cake has similar qualities. What really makes this cake is the raspberry whipped cream. I have been meaning to experiment with adding freeze dried fruit to whipped cream. I frequently add it to cakes and cupcakes, and it add a lot of flavor.
I was really please with the way this cake came out, and I will be using this recipe as a template for different flavors in the future. I am thinking something with coconut and pineapple could be next…

Triple Berry Cake
For the cake:
3 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp lemon zest
3 tbsp (olive) oil
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 baking soda
2 cups flour
3/4 cup of milk
For the Raspberry Whipped Cream:
1 ½ cups heavy cream
3 tbsp confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup finely crushed freeze dried raspberries (I used the Just Fruit Brand)
For the Glaze:
2 cups strawberries
2 tbsp lemon juice
¼ cup blueberries
3 tbsp sugar

Preheat the oven to 350. Stir together the wet ingredient and mix in the sugar. Combine the flour, baking, powder and baking soda. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet alternating with the milk. Pour into a greased and floured cake pan and bake for about 35 minutes.
While the cake is baking slice 1 cup of the strawberries. Simmer the strawberries. Blueberries, lemon juice and sugar over medium heat. Bring to a rolling boil and remove from the heat. This may be chilled in the refrigerator.
In a large mixing bowl or a standing mixer whip the cream with the vanilla and sugar. Add the finely crushed raspberries when the cream is still very soft. Combine until the color is even throughout. Refrigerate this until the cake is ready to be assembled.
When fully cooled, slice the cake in to even layers. For a neater presentation, you may slice the top off the risen cake. To assemble, brush the bottom layer with the sauce using a pastry brush. Place a layer of the raspberry whipped cream and on top of this a layer of sliced strawberries. Put the top layer of the cake on and brush with the glaze. Evenly frost the cake with the remaining raspberry whipped cream and decorate with berries.
Serve with a spoonful of the remaining glaze.


Blueberry Clafoutis

Posted by: on Aug 12, 2008 | One Comment

Blueberry Clafoutis, originally uploaded by jasonrr.

I really liked this recipe for clafoutis from the Food Network by the dreaded Emeril found here. I use half the amount of sugar. Since the time for cherries has passed, I decided to use blueberries. I think I used too many because this didn’t puff up the way the cherry one did. I was a little disappointed when I took it out of the oven. It still tasted really good, especially when served with a little fresh whipped cream. Lately, I have been whipping cream by hand with a whisk for no particular reason. There is something really satisfying about it, and I like to add an extra bit of vanilla. J says it tastes like melted vanilla ice cream… I think this is a good thing. The whipped cream is melting in the picture because I didn’t wait very long after the clafoutis came out of the oven to serve it!


Zucchini Fingers with Pasta

Posted by: on Aug 11, 2008 | One Comment

Zucchini Fingers with Pasta, originally uploaded by jasonrr.

I really hate wasting food. So, before we left for vacation I wanted to use up the zucchini that we had just bought at the farmer’s market over the weekend. I loved zucchini in all forms: grilled, cakes in baked goods. This recipe also served to use up most of the buttermilk that I had left in the fridge.

1 zucchini
1 cup of white whole wheat flour
1 cup of buttermilk
1 egg
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp fresh thyme
salt and pepper
2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Cut the zucchini in half and the into wedges about 3 inches long.
Set up an assembly line of flour, egg and buttermilk mixture and panko mixed with the herbs and salt and pepper.
Coat them in flour, then coat in the the buttermilk and egg mixture. Press them into the panko and herb coating.
Shallow fry in olive oil until they are golden and grate fresh Parmesan top while they are still hot.

We ate these with spaghetti with a simple tomato basil sauce. I just heat canned crushed tomatoes with tablespoon of oregano, 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, 1 tsp of chopped parsley, a handful of fresh basil and a pinch of salt. It just takes 5 minutes, and it is really good.
I realize that this is my second post in a row calling for panko, but I love using it. If you haven’t given it a try, you really should.


Lemon Thyme Chicken Nuggets

Posted by: on Aug 9, 2008 | 2 Comments

Lemon Thyme Chicken Nuggets, originally uploaded by jasonrr.

I made these awhile ago when J’s brother was over for a visit. I have lots of fresh thyme growing right now, and this proved to be a good way to use quite a bit of it. Although I am not a huge fan of chicken, I have no complaints when it is cut into nuggets and crispy.

To make these I cut 4 small boneless skinless chicken breasts into nugget size pieces. For the breading I used about 3/4 of panko mixed with 2 tablespoons of fresh thyme (I would probably use even more next time), 1 tablespoon of lemon zest, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 ground pepper.
Dredge chicken in flour, then egg wash, then press it into panko mixture.
Shallow fry in olive oil until it is golden brown on both sides.
We ate this with some lemon honey mustard. I just mixed dijon mustard, honey, lemon juice, pepper and thyme until it tasted right.