Sassy Southern Cooking with a French Twist

eclairs

New Covers for The French Cook Series Cookbooks

Fresh Cookbook Faces

Happily,  publisher Gibbs Smith, has decided to re-vamp the covers on all of the books in the French Cook series. The signature bright colors will remain under fresh new covers that will showcase the gorgeous photography in each book, and also eliminate the pesky plastic wrap that made it hard for cookbook shoppers to see what’s within these beautiful pages. Here’s a sneak preview of what will be hitting bookstore and internet shelves in the next few weeks.

New cover art for The French Cook Cream Puffs and Eclairs. Photography by Alexandra DeFurio.

New cover art for The French Cook Cream Puffs and Eclairs. Photography by Alexandra DeFurio.

Soups and Stews (my favorite of all of my books in this series) gets a new cover, too, showcasing the talents of photographer Chia Chong.

Soups and Stews (my favorite of all of my books in this series) gets a new cover, too, showcasing the talents of photographer Chia Chong.

Photographer Steven Rothfeld's work shines in this book, full of inspiring, easy to use classical French sauces and variations.

Photographer Steven Rothfeld’s work shines in this book, full of inspiring, easy to use classical French sauces and variations.

Author Greg Patent makes a stunning case for the art of sure-fire souffle artistry, matched with lovely photographs by Kelly Gorham.

Author Greg Patent makes a stunning case for the art of sure-fire souffle artistry, matched with lovely photographs by Kelly Gorham.

I hope you will love the new look. Please write and let me know your thoughts.

As always, bon appetit and happy cooking!

Holly

 

Cream Puffing Around

Thank you to the fine folks at Grilliant Ideas for inviting me to join their show this morning. We covered cream puffs, profiteroles, French cooking, croissants and more and had a lot of fun in the process. Visit the link below to listen in.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/grilliantideas/2013/10/12/grilliant-ideas-radio-show-with-grilliants-foodie-friends

One of the co-hosts was particularly fond of the recipe for Salted Caramel Macadamia Ice Cream Profiteroles with Warm Caramel Sauce and this picture by Alexandra DeFurio on page 90 of  The French Cook: Cream Puffs and Eclairs.

Profiterole with Salted Caramel Macadamia Ice Cream and Hot Caramel Sauce. Photo by Alexandra DeFurio.

Profiterole with Salted Caramel Macadamia Ice Cream and Hot Caramel Sauce. Photo by Alexandra DeFurio.

While we’re talking cream puffs and eclairs, mark your calendars for tomorrow’s Second Sunday on King Street (October 13). We’ll be celebrating the recent release of the book in style at the corner of Wentworth and King Street, downtown Charleston from 1 – 5 p.m. Come by and join me to talk choux pastry and receive your own signed copy of the brand new book, as well as my other books.

Look for the bright pink sign! Hope to see you there.

Big, Fat, Delicious Blueberry Eclairs

For me, blueberries are a fruit laden with delicious memories of summers’ past. Hot July days of my youth were often spent picking plump, purple berries off the prolific bush on our farm and popping them directly into my greedy little mouth. Or, perhaps better yet, were our blueberry-rich annual summer trips up to Bar Harbor, Maine and Acadia National Park. Mom would arm us with little tin pails as we hiked the hills, cool, salty sea breezes on our faces, in search of plump blueberries and good, lazy summer fun that filled our days and spilled over into happy, deep dreams each evening.

All these years later, blueberries from Maine (and now peaches from South Carolina), are still the fruits of summer in my mind. These delicious eclairs, adapted from my upcoming book, The French Cook: Cream Puffs and Eclairs (Gibbes Smith, October 2013) are a beautiful way to put them to use.

Lemon Blueberry Cream Eclairs with a Chocolate Glaze

(Yields 12 to 16 standard-size éclairs)

Fresh Blueberry Pastry Cream Filled Eclairs with Ganache Glaze

Fresh Blueberry Pastry Cream Filled Eclairs with Ganache Glaze

(Photo by Alexandra Defurio)

A purée of fresh blueberries blended into a rich pastry cream give the filling for these beauties a regal purple color. The mild flavor of the berries is lightly enhanced with fresh lemon juice. Fresh, sugar-coated berries sit atop a ganache glaze to provide an enticing clue as to what’s inside. You could easily substitute the same quantity of fresh raspberries or blackberries using the same method for a color and flavor variation. Just switch out the garnish to match the corresponding berry-enriched filling. Make the pastry cream and the ganache ahead, so they can chill and set up, or borrow from a previously prepared batch.

These will chill nicely for several hours before serving. They are superb with a cold glass of Champagne or sparkling wine garnished with 3 or 4 fresh, frozen blueberries to serve as edible ice cubes.

This is basically a three-part process, that’s easy when approached as follows. First, prepare the choux and bake the eclairs. These will store wonderfully in the freezer in a plastic freezer bag for several days. The day before serving, prepare the pastry cream and ganache. Finally, the pastry cream is finished with a cooked, fresh blueberry puree, piped into the fresh eclairs, a topped with ganache and sugar coated fresh blueberries.

Master Recipe Sweet Choux Pastry

Egg wash: 1 egg yolk, splash of water, pinch of salt, blended together

Equipment needed: 2 silicon mats or parchment paper, 2 half sheet baking pans, one 12″ piping bag, #804 round pastry tip, pastry brush.

1 cup water

3/4 stick (3 ounces) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2″ cubes

1/2 cup bread flour

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt

4 large eggs (about 1 cup), room temperature, beaten together

Egg wash: 1 egg, splash of water, pinch of salt, beaten together

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line two half sheet baking pans with silicon mats or parchment paper. Prepare the pastry.

In a medium, sturdy saucepan, heat the water and butter together over medium-high heat, stirring once or twice to help the butter melt. Once melted, reduce heat to medium.

Sift together the two flours and salt together over a medium bowl. Add the sifted dry ingredients all at once to the melted water and butter mixture, and set the bowl nearby. Stir the dough vigorously with a wooden spoon to bring it together. Continue stirring, less vigorously, until the pastry pulls away from the sides of the pan and forms a uniform ball. Turn the pastry out into the reserved bowl and let sit for about 1 minute, or until the pastry is cool enough to touch comfortably with your finger for at least 10 seconds.  Add half of the beaten eggs (about 1/2 cup) to the pastry. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the pastry looks uniform and glossy, about 1 minute. Add half of the remaining egg mixture (about 1/4 cup) and continue to stir with a wooden spoon until the pastry is uniform and glossy, about 1 minute. Repeat with the remaining egg mixture.

Pipe the warm choux into 3″-long, 1 1/2″ wide eclair “logs.” Brush lightly with the egg wash. Bake 25 minutes. Reduce heat to 375F, rotating the sheets if necessary for even browning, and bake another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a pastry rack. Pierce the bottom of each gently with the tip of a sharp knife three times, once near each end of the length of the éclairs and once in the center.

Master Recipe Pastry Cream

(Yields 2 1/2 cups)

This cornerstone custard filling for both cream puffs and éclairs is mildly sweet, unctuous and pale gold in color. Egg yolks and cornstarch work together to thicken the custard, while whole milk lends creamy flavor. 2 cups warm milk

6 egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

Generous pinch of sea salt or kosher salt

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Heat the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat until it reaches a very low simmer, about 3 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs together vigorously until they are lemony in color and thickened, about 2 minutes. Sift together the sugar, salt and cornstarch and add all at once to the eggs. Whisk vigorously for another minute. The mixture will have a glossy sheen. Very gradually at first, drizzle the warm milk into the egg mixture, whisking all the while. Add the remaining milk in thirds, whisking constantly. Strain the mixture through a China cap and return the pastry cream to the same pan used to heat the milk. Whisk vigorously over medium-low heat. The cream will start to thicken almost instantly. Continue cooking for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the cream is thick enough to hold in a spoon, like a custard or pudding. Using a spatula, guide the custard into a clean, glass bowl. Whisk in the butter and vanilla extract until combined. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it down over the top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled and set.

For the garnish:

1⁄ 2 cup Ganache/Hot Chocolate Sauce, recipe follows:

Ganache

(Yield: 1 1/2 cups)

Cold or room temperature, ganache works beautifully as a glaze for sweet cream puffs and eclairs. I add a bit of salt, and vanilla and coffee extracts and salt to pump up the chocolate flavor. This stores beautifully in the refrigerator for a couple of days, covered.  For a glaze, remove from the refrigerator for 15 – 20 minutes to soften it up for spreading. You will have extra left-over for another use.

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup coarsely chopped, best-quality dark bittersweet chocolate

Generous pinch sea or kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon coffee extract

In a medium sauce pan, bring the cream up to a simmer over medium high heat. Reduce the heat to low, and stir in the chopped dark chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted and the sauce is a dark, chocolate color. Off the heat, stir in the remaining ingredients. To reserve warm, store in a Thermos, serve in the next several minutes, or reheat gently over low heat. To store cold, refrigerate in a covered container for later use as a glaze or re-constituted sauce.

To finish the eclair garnish:

1⁄4 cup dampened fresh blueberries

2 tablespoons sugar

Putting it all together!

Blueberry Sauce to Finish the Pastry Cream filling :

2 cups fresh blueberries

1⁄4 cup sugar

Zest of 1 lemon

Juice of 1 lemon

3 tablespoons water

Pinch of sea salt or kosher salt

2 cups prepared, cold Pastry Cream  (recipe above)

Bring the blueberries, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, water and salt up to a simmer over high heat in a medium sauce pan. Reduce to medium. Cook until the blueberries begin to pop and soften, stirring occasionally, a total of about 6 to 7 minutes. Using a blender or a hand-held emulsion blender, purée the mixture until very smooth. Return the mixture to the same pan, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer until thickened and reduced to a total of 1 cup.

Refrigerate until the mixture is thoroughly chilled.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the pastry cream with the cooled blueberry sauce (“coulis”) until smooth and blended. Using a pastry bag fitted with a #802 round pastry tip, gently pipe the filling into each of the three knife piercings on the bottom of each éclair. Using a clean fingertip, garnish the top of each with a heaping tablespoon of ganache spread out into a smooth layer over the top of the éclair. Just before garnishing, run the reserved 1 ⁄ 4 cup blueberries under water and strain well. Toss with the sugar. Garnish the top of each éclair with a horizontal string of 5 blueberries along the top, pressed gently into the ganache.

Bon appetit!

 

 

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Fun with Choux: Bacon, Avocado and Tomato Eclairs

Most people think of eclairs as something filled with cream and topped with chocolate, or another decadent sweet flavor pairing . But, the pastry they’re prepared with, the ever versatile choux pastry, is an excellent casing for savory ingredients, as in these tasty and beautiful eclairs.

Verdant as a garden with a bright green avocado mousse, layers of finely sliced tomatoes, and shards of crunchy, salty bacon, these little bundles are packed with heart and soul satisfying flavor and texture in every bite while delivering an elegant play on a good, old-fashioned American BLT. Make the pastry a day ahead or a few days ahead and freeze, for quick, easy assembly for a fun cocktail party with a choux twist. This would even be a great, sexy treat for your main man or gal on Valentine’s Day.  Dress them up with a flute of Brut Champagne. Cheers!

Petite Eclairs with Avocado Mousse, Bacon Slivers and Tomatoes

(Yields 26 petite eclairs)

Bacon Avocado and Tomato Petite Eclairs

Bacon Avocado and Tomato Petite Eclairs

1 Master Recipe Savory Choux Pastry (to follow)

For the avocado mousse:

1 ripe avocado, halved, pitted and skin removed

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon heavy cream (Do NOT substitute a lesser fat cream or it may curdle with the lemon juice)

Sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons very finely chopped shallots

2 tablespoons finely chopped chives

8 slices bacon, browned, drained and cut into 3”-lengths

14 grape tomatoes, rinsed and thinly sliced

Master Recipe Savory Choux Pastry

Special Equipment Needed: 2 silicon baking sheets or parchment paper, 2 half-sheet baking pans, one 12” piping bag, #806 round pastry tip, pastry brush.

1 cup water

3/4 stick (3 ounces) unsalted, cold butter cut into 1/2”-cubes

1/2 cup bread flour

1/2 cup All-Purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

4 room temperature large eggs (about 1 cup), beaten together

Egg wash: 1 egg, splash water and pinch kosher or sea salt, beaten together

Preheat the oven to 425F. Have everything measured and in place in advance of starting to actually prepare the choux.

In a medium, sturdy sauce pan, melt the water and butter together over medium high heat, stirring once or twice to help the butter melt. Once melted, reduce the heat to medium. Sift together the bread flour, AP flour and salt together over a medium bowl. Add the sifted dry ingredients all at once to the melted water and butter mixture, reserving the bowl nearby. Stir the mixture (roux) vigorously with a wooden spoon to bring the dough together, initially. Continue stirring, less vigorously, until the pastry starts to pull away from the sides of the pan and forms a uniform ball (This should take about 1 minutes). Turn the pastry out into the reserved bowl. Allow to sit for about 1 minute, or until the pastry is cool enough to touch comfortably with your finger for at least 15 seconds. Add 1/2 of the beaten eggs (about 1/2 cup) to the pastry. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the pastry looks uniform and glossy, about 1 minute. Add half of the remaining egg mixture (about 1/4 cup) and continue to stir with a wooden spoon until the pastry is uniform and glossy (about 1 minute). Repeat with the remaining egg mixture.

While the pastry is still warm, pipe and bake the pastry using a 1/2″-round tip onto a silicon or parchment paper lined baking sheet. Pipe so that the eclairs are all the same length and width, approximately 2 1/4″-long, 1/2″-high and 1/2″-wide. Brush the top of each pastry with a light coating of egg wash, being careful not to allow the wash to drip down the sides of the pastry.

Bake the petite eclairs for 22 to 25  minutes, or until puffed and golden brown. Turn off the oven, open the door, and let the pastry stand for 5 minutes. Pierce the bottom of each choux gently with the tip of a knife. Allow to cool completely before filling.

For the filling:

In a medium bowl, combine the avocado, lemon juice, olive oil, cream, and mash with the tines of a fork or a potato masher until smooth and fluffy. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Fold in the shallots and chives and combine until smooth. Set aside. (Note: The mousse can be prepared a few hours in advance, tightly covered and refrigerated). Meanwhile, heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Arrange the bacon in a single layer in a large sauté pan and cook until well browned on each side, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels. Cut the bacon into 3” lengths (approximately) and set aside.

To assemble, slice the prepared eclairs  in half, horizontally, cutting all the way through each éclair. Reserve the tops and bottoms alongside their matching half. With a small spatula, spread a heaping 1 tablespoon of the avocado mousse neatly on the bottom of each éclair. Top with a trimmed piece of bacon and 3 slices of tomato, arranged prettily along the length of the éclair. Top each éclair and serve immediately on a serving platter or individual plates garnished with fresh chives.

 

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Somewhere Between Sauces and Choux

I just bought Dansko shoes for the first time in my life. Sexy they are not, but they are highly practical in the kitchen and go reasonably well with the pair of jeans I usually wear when I’m cooking, especially the sassy, oiled red shoe variety pictured below.

The perfect working kitchen shoe – Dansko.

I’ve been cooking for years. So, why now, why today? A giant of a French chef told me years ago in Fauchon’s kitchen that if I didn’t wear the right shoes and stand up straight while I prepped, I’d be crooked by the time I was forty. Maybe that was the impetus, but I think it has more to do with transition.

Some people can leap from one project to another with reckless abandon. I’m not one of them. I need time, if only a few days, to clear the decks, clear the desk, clear my brain, empty the nest, and get pumped up before starting all over again.

So, on this, the literal eve of the official beginning of my next cookbook (cookbook #6!), I’m transisting and taking the brave leap from the nuances of delicate, layered French sauces and into the puffy, stalwart realm of choux pastry. And, I’m kicking it all off with a brand new pair of red shoes.

Unlike tart pastry I manipulated in Tart Love or sauces I created for The French Book: Sauces (Gibbs Smith, March 2013), choux pastry is one tough little nut. It likes to get beat up pretty good to activate the gluten and choux pastry’s unique rising effect – aided only by this, butter and egg yolks. Nutty and savory in flavor, once cooked it can be filled with anything from whipped cream to bacon and eggs. It’s a huge sweet and savory universe all of its own and can also be formed into little balls (cream puffs) or longer tubes (eclairs).

Beautiful eclairs.

Not only delicious, these little treats are amazingly versatile. In the sauces cookbook, my primary task was to reveal the technique and versatility of sauces while adhering to the classic “recettes” for the five French mother sauces. Here, my task load is a little more free-form – to find an excellent, practical technique for making choux pastry itself, and coming up with all kinds of beautiful and delicious flavor pairings.

My head has been adrift for days and weeks with such thoughts: lemon and mascarpone and pumpkin and cream cheese on the sweet side; BLT cream puff sandwiches and French onion choux on the savory. The list goes on and on and I’m ready to have some fun and get some flour dust on my pretty new shoes. Please jump on the band wagon with me and let me know if you have any ideas you would like for me to try out. I’d love to give it a go! And, for restaurant news/review fans, I want you to know that I’m back on track with those too (after a mandatory medical delay) as we wrap up 2012 and prepare for 2013. Charleston has so much exciting and delicious restaurant news happening right now, and I can’t wait to share it with you.

In the meantime, I’m going to leave you with a recipe for fail-proof roasted chicken. It’s the perfect feast for this time year. The techniques work just as well for chicken as they do for turkey. It’s from The French Book: Sauces, with which it’s paired with a lovely mushroom sauce. Here, simply strain any pan juices, skim off any fat, and whisk together with a little Dijon mustard for a quick, delicious pan sauce.

Perfect Roasted Chicken

Roasting chicken is simple and so rewarding when done with love for the people seated at your table. Basting is really the key. Keep giving back to the chicken what it gives to you in juices. Use a sturdy roasting pan and a roasting rack to keep the chicken off the bottom of the pan. In addition to creating a safe spot for the chicken to nestle while it’s cooking, the rack enables better browning.

1 (3 to 4-pound chicken)

Sea salt or kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

8 sprigs fresh thyme

1 shallot halved

1 small carrot, peeled and cut into 3-inch lengths

1 small celery rib, trimmed and cut into 3-inch lengths

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, thinly sliced

For basting:

3/4 cup good-quality white wine (e.g. Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay)

3/4 cup chicken stock

Preheat oven to 375F. Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Trim off and discard wing tips and any excess fat from near the cavity. Season the cavity generously with salt and pepper. Fill the cavity with the thyme, shallot, carrot, and celery. Loosen the skin on the chicken breast from the flesh by slipping your index finger under the skin and gently prying it loose. Place the sliced butter under the skin of the breasts, spacing evenly.

To truss the chicken, arrange it on your work surface, back side down. Run kitchen string underneath the bottom of the spine and around the bottom of the legs. Cross the string over itself and now guide it up on both sides of the breasts, along the crease where the thighs and the breasts meet. Flip the chicken over, wrap the string around the wings, and pull tightly to form a knot. Trim off the excess string. Season the chicken generously all over with salt and pepper. Bake until the skin is a pale golden color and a skin/salt crust begins to form, about 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350F. Combine the wine and stock and baste the chicken, starting now, every 20 to 25 minutes, or until it’s done, about 1 1/2 hours (count on about 20 minutes for every pound). Test for doneness by piercing the chicken between the leg and the breast; it is cooked when the juices run clear. Remove the chicken from the pan, cover with aluminum foil, and rest for 20 minutes.

To carve the chicken, cut the legs away from the body, and cut each into two pieces at the joint. Carve the breasts away from the carcass and cut each horizontally into two pieces.

Serve immediately. Delicious with rice, mashed potatoes, and a simple side of sauteed mushrooms or spinach. Bon appetit!

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