Saturday, May 12, 2012

Sasha's Kitchen: Eclairs

As I have said in some recent posts, I've been trying out a new French recipe each week.  Before moving on to delve deep into the world of macarons, I decided to try making eclairs, once the darling of the French patisserie, before macarons came on the scene. The key to making delicious eclairs in making pate choux, the basis of the French cream puff, piping out the pate choux, and allowing it to puff up into eclairs in the oven.  Then, the pastries are filled with homemade pastry cream and glazed in a chocolate ganache glaze.  These only stay good for about a day, and are really best if you eat them right away, so I suggest making them for a party, perhaps for a French brunch.  I was really happy with how these came out - they were nice and puffy and filled up easily with the pastry cream.

Eclairs (recipe from Martha Stewart)
Pate Choux
1 stick of butter, cut into pieces
1 tsp sugar
1 1/4 cup flour
four large eggs

Pastry Cream
six egg yolks
1 large egg
3/4 cup plus 2 T sugar
3 T cornstarch
3 T flour
3 cups milk
3 T unsalted butter
2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup heavy cream
4 oz semisweet chocolate chips

First, to make the pate choux, bring butter, sugar, salt and one cup of water to boil in a medium saucepan.  Remove from heat and quickly stir in the flour.  Continue stirring constantly over medium high heat until mixture pulls away from the sides and a thin film forms on the bottom, about three minutes. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on low speed for a minute, then turn to high speed and add the whole eggs, one at a time.  Beat on high until soft peaks form when you touch with the tip of your finger

Preheat the oven to 425.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or use silpats.  Fill a pastry bag with a 1 inch tip and pipe oblong shapes onto the baking sheets at 2 inch intervals.  Run a wet fork along the top of each to ensure even rising.

Cover one sheet with oiled plastic wrap and put in the fridge, until the first sheet is done.  Bake 10 minutes at 425, then reduce to 350 and bake another 25 minutes.  Turn off oven and prop door with a spoon and allow to cool in the oven for ten minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool and bake the second sheet the same way.

The pastry cream can be made ahead of time.  Prepare an ice bath.  In a medium bowl, combine the yolks and 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Whisk in the cornstarch and flour and whisk until smooth.  Set aside.  In a medium saucepan, combine the milk and remaining sugar.  Stir over medium heat until milk begins to steam.  Then. whisk in the egg mixture, stir until smooth and return to the heat.  Bring the mixture to a boil and stir constantly to prevent scorching until it forms a thick custard.  Strain and place over icebath.  Chill.

Fill the eclairs with the pastry cream using a pastry tip.  To make the glaze, heat the cream in a saucepan, and pour the hot cream over the chocolate.  Let stand until melted and whisk until smooth.  Dip each eclair in the chocolate cream.  Allow glaze to set.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sasha's Kitchen: Dan Dan Noodles

These Sichuan style noodles were a pleasant addition to my weekly menu a couple weeks ago.  The recipe made plenty of noodles, and they were quite flavorful.  My husband and I adapted the recipe to use ground beef rather than pork, and added some Sriracha sauce for a bit of heat.  This was quite easy to make using udon noodles.  It's probably not an ethnic Chinese dish the way it was made, but it certainly has the flavors and inspiration of Sichuan cuisine behind it.

Dan Dan Noodles (adapted from Serious Eats)
12 oz Shanghai style noodles or udon
2 T canola oil
1 lb ground beef
2 T chopped fresh ginger
3/4 cup low sodium chicken stock
Sriracha, to taste
2 T red wine vinegar
2 T soy sauce
4 tsp tahini
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, ground
pinch of sugar
4 T chopped peanuts
1 bunch of scallions, thinly sliced

Bring a large pot of water to boil and add the noodles.  Cook until tender, drain and set aside. In a large 12 inch skillet or wok, heat oil over medium heat until smoking.  Add beef and a pinch of salt and pepper and cook until partially cooked but still half pink.  Add ginger and continue cooking until beef is cooked through.  Stir in the chicken stock, siriracha sauce, red wine vinegar, soy sauce, tahini and peppercorns.  Season with a little sugar and boil and simmer about 7-10 minutes until the sauce thickens. Add the noodles to the skillet and toss well in the sauce.  Serve with peanuts and scallions.
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