Saturday, August 28, 2010

Cream Puffs

I went to a friend's house last night for Mom's Night Out. I debated all day about what to make as I always do. I never know what to make. I look through all my recipes over and over again. I ask everyone what I should make, but when they suggest something, I usually do not want to make that. My mom suggested that I make cream puffs. At first, I did not think that I had enough time. In my mind, they are time consuming. I would have to make the pastry cream, then the choux paste. Then I would have to fill them. In the end I did decide to make them, and they were delicious. I hope everyone else enjoyed them as much as I did!

As a kid, cream puffs were always a dessert that we wanted but rarely had. My grandma made them occasionally, but not all that often. She baked all the time, and she loved sweets. Sounds a lot like me :) When she made them, she would scoop the insides out before she filled them. My sisters and I loved to eat what she scooped out. It was our favorite part. I don't take the insides out of mine. I just poke a small hole in the side and fill them with a pastry bag. They always seemed to me like they were so hard to make. In reality, they are not very difficult, slightly time consuming maybe, but not difficult. Baking is sort of my escape though. I am always up for a time consuming baking challenge ;)

Pâte à Choux (pronounced pot a shoo), also known as choux or eclair paste is what is used to make cream puffs. It literally means "cabbage paste" due to the fact that cream puffs look like little cabbages. It contains only butter, flour, water, and eggs. No leavening agent is used. Instead, the high moisture content creates steam to cause the pastry to puff during the baking process. It is used to make cream puffs, eclairs, profiteroles, beignets, and a whole slew of other desserts. Once you master this recipe, you can make a countless number of desserts.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dark Chocolate Brownies

So, today we went to a friend's house for a play date for L. Of course I cannot go anywhere without bringing a dessert of some kind. The ice cream man was supposed to show up for the kids, so I thought I'd make some yummy dark chocolate brownies for the mamas. I used Hershey's Special Dark cocoa (which by the way is a mixture of natural and dutch processed cocoas) instead of regular old natural cocoa. Also, I put in Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips. They were quite yummy and a big hit!

A great tip for cutting brownies: use a plastic butter knife. You will get a nice clean cut. I always keep a disposable butter knife on hand to cut my brownies and bars!

Have you ever read a recipe that called for Dutch Process Cocoa? Ever wonder what the difference is? "Dutched" cocoa refers to the process of adding an alkaline to the beans during the roasting process. This process mellows the acidity of the cocoa. When using Dutch Process cocoa, an acid such as baking powder should be used. Can't find Dutch Process Cocoa? Use this substitution:
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder + 1 pinch (1/8 tsp) baking soda