Sunday, September 22, 2013

Earl Grey Eclairs

 Junior year, or at least the first 2 weeks of it, has been great and bad and wonderful and terrible and confusing and musical and most of all, busy. I've been baking, occasionally, but it's usually to de-stress, and by the time I'm done I have an entirely new to-do list and I can't even think about sitting down to blog.
 So now, in the 23 minutes I have left before the Emmys start, I give you these eclairs. They were an idea that came to me out of the blue, and somehow, perhaps magically, the baking gods were on my side and they worked out just as I had wanted them to. I only had to make them twice. ;)
 These are a simple choux pastry, hollow inside and perfect for filling with the creamy custard flavored with earl grey tea. The tea is one of my favorite drinks in the world - I have it almost every morning before school, even though it may make me seem like I'm 90 years old - and I even brought home a giant tin of it from England. On top, instead of a traditional fondant glaze, there's a thin layer of sweet cookie dough.
 This layer of cookie dough does several things. First, it makes the whole dessert something totally different, which is always nice. Second, it makes the eclairs beautiful - the cracked, sugar-dusted top is enough to make anyone's mouth water. Third, it adds texture to an otherwise fairly soft dessert: the topping is crispy and crumbly at the same time, and goes perfectly with the smoothness of the cream. Lastly (and maybe most importantly), it kind of melts into the choux and makes the whole thing insanely buttery, and wonderfully reminiscent of tea and cookies. And perfect.
 Earl Grey Eclairs
(adapted from Ladurée Sucré and Kitchen Wench)

Biscuit Topping
100g unsalted butter, very cold
125g cake flour
125g caster sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Choux Pastry
120g cake flour
100mL whole milk
100mL water
10g caster sugar
1 pinch salt
80g unsalted butter
4 large eggs

Lightened Crème Pâtissière
1/4 cup loose earl grey tea leaves (or about 5 tea bags)
400mL whole milk
4 egg yolks
80 caster sugar
30g corn starch
25g unsalted butter
1 cup double cream

For the biscuit topping:
Cut the chilled butter into small pieces, then mix together with the flour, sugar and vanilla till well combined.
Bring the mixture together into a ball by hand and refrigerate for an hour.
For the choux:
While the topping mixture is chilling, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and melt the butter into the milk in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.
Add the flour, sugar and salt all at once and rapidly mix with a wooden spoon till the dough comes together into a ball and there is a thin layer forming on the bottom of the pan.
Transfer the dough to a bowl and mix in the eggs with a wooden spoon, one at a time, till the dough is smooth and glossy.
Fill a large piping bag with a 1″/ 2.5cm round tip and pipe out long shapes about 10cm long onto a tray lined with baking paper. Make sure to leave about 10cm between each pastry to leave room for them to spread.
 Once this is done, take the biscuit topping out of the fridge and lightly knead to soften, then place between two sheets of non-stick baking paper or plastic wrap and roll flat to about 1-2mm thick. Cut into rectangles about 4cm x 12cm, to make sure that it completely covers the eclairs and hangs off the sides.
Place each rectangle of biscuit topping on top of each eclair, then bake for 10 minutes, then prop the oven door open about 3mm (the handle of a wooden spoon is great for this) and allow to bake for another 20 minutes or till they are golden on top and fully puffed up. Set aside to cool before filling.
For the cream:
Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar, then add the corn starch and whisk till mixture becomes pale yellow and thickened.
Set aside and scrape the vanilla into the milk and bring to a simmer.
Slowly pour the milk into the egg yolk mixture in a thin stream while constantly beating.
Pour back into the saucepan and bring to a boil while whisking, making sure to scrape down the sides.
Leave the mixture to cool for about 10 minutes so that it’s no longer boiling, then briskly whisk in the butter till the mixture is smooth and glossy.
Scrape the mixture into a non-reactive bowl and keep tightly covered with plastic wrap till ready to use. Once you’re ready to fill the eclairs, beat the cream to firm peaks then carefully mix together the cream and the pastry cream with a spatula.
Fill a piping bag with the mixture then pipe each eclair with the pastry cream in three places and dust with icing sugar before serving.
Best eaten within a day of filling (unfilled pastries can be stored in an airtight container for up to one week).
   -makes about 20 eclairs

Friday, September 13, 2013

Homemade Indulgences: Tart Pinkberry!

   Welcome to a new series here at Sophia's Sweets! I like to call it "Homemade Indulgences;" the idea is basically to re-create some of my favorite store-bought treats at home.
   Choosing a recipe to start with was easy. (By the way, sorry for the back-to-back ice cream posts - I'm trying to get them in while the weather is warm enough!) As any of my friends (or family) will tell you, I am completely obsessed with frozen yogurt. It's super yummy, and low-fat enough to pass as healthier than ice cream. For dessert, I love mixing flavors and crazy toppings, but sometimes I just want a simple snack. One of my favorites is the classic plain/tart frozen yogurt, topped with fresh fruit. It turns out, it's SUPER easy to make at home!
  No cooking of custards, or even pulling out of blenders, is required. Let it go for a spin in the ice cream machine, and you're all set! I loved this right after it was churned the best, but it was great after hardening for a few hours too. You'll just have to microwave it for a few seconds to get it back to that soft, creamy texture.
  I've been enjoying this with fresh berries and a drizzle of honey. Not only is it cheaper than one of New York's many frozen yogurt chains ($5 cups of yogurt start to add up...), but it also isn't full of various preservatives and other unpronounceable ingredients. And it tastes just like store-bought. I found myself a new favorite!
Tart Pinkberry
(slightly adapted from Food Network)

2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt
2 cups plain nonfat or reduced-fat Greek yogurt
1/2 cup superfine sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
Fresh fruit or other toppings (like honey), for garnish

Whisk both yogurts, the sugar, the corn syrup and the vanilla in a bowl until combined. Pour into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions.
For a soft consistency, serve right out of the ice cream maker. For a firmer texture, transfer the frozen yogurt to a covered container and freeze for up to 2 hours. Serve with assorted toppings.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Olive Oil Ice Cream

 When you think of ice cream, olive oil probably isn't the first flavor that comes to mind. Deep dark chocolate, light and creamy vanilla bean, sweet and sour strawberry - those are more likely. But I'm here to tell you that olive oil beats them all.
 This recipe basically replaces some of the cream in a classic ice cream recipe with olive oil. The oil not only adds a great creamy texture, but a lovely flavor. When you first taste it, you might not detect the olive oil, but there's definitely something wonderfully different about the ice cream.
 The oil adds a fruitiness and depth that I've never been able to achieve at home. (Shoutout to two awesome friends of mine who gave me an ice cream machine for my birthday!)
 This was perfect served alongside an almond plum tart (recipe to come!), but I think it would be great with any fruity dessert. Get ready to turn your kitchen into a 5-star restaurant!
 Or, if you're like me, you can forget to photograph the ice cream with the tart, so just pile a bunch into a beer glass and call it a day. Whether you then eat the entire five scoops is entirely up to you.
 I promise not to judge.
Olive Oil Ice Cream

2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
5  large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 cup fruity extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Set a heatproof bowl with a strainer set over it ready for the cooked custard.
Bring the milk and cream to a boil in a large heavy saucepan.  In a large bowl, whisk the yolks and sugar together until very well blended and just slightly thickened.  Whisking without stop, drizzle in about 1/3 of the hot liquid - adding it slowly will temper the eggs and prevent them from cooking.  Once the eggs are acclimated to the heat, you can whisk in the remaining liquid a little more quickly.  Add the salt and pour the custard back into the pan.  Cook the custard over medium heat, stirring constantly.  The custard should reach at least 170 degrees, but no more than 180 degrees.  
Immediately remove the pan from the heat and pour the custard through the strainer into the bowl.  Discard whatever remains in the strainer.  Add the olive oil and whisk.  Stir in the vanilla.  The custard needs to chill before you churn it.  Chill it and scrape the custard into your ice cream maker and make according to the appliance instructions.