Making Chocolate eclairs with The French Club this week made for an incredibly fun afternoon! The Chocolate eclair shells made from pâte à choux, a french pastry dough, is a cinch to make and so delicious you may find your self wanting to make them this weekend.
The method I use to make the pastry cream is simplistic and straight forward. This method for making the pastry cream I got from one of Martha Stewart’s chefs, Thomas Joseph. I wanted to show you an easier way to prepare the custard then your traditional tempering of the eggs method, especially if you have never tried to make this before. The actual recipe for the pastry cream is from my own collection and playing around with recipes over the years.
As for the pâte à choux dough, what can I say, but wow! Although, this is a French dough with French ties it is also noted that Catherine de Medici left Florence in 1533 to marry the Duke of Orleans who later became Henry II, King of France. She brought with her the entire court which included her chefs! Smart woman is all I can say. A few years later her head chef, Panterelli, invented a hot paste-like dough and called it pâte à Panterelli. Of course, the recipe has evolved some what since then and with a couple of names changes too but with the same idea. It’s a dough with a paste like texture that use’s heat and moisture-steam for a raising agent instead of the baking powders that we use so much today.
1 tsp sugar (only for desserts) (not for gougeres)
1/2 tsp salt
4 lg eggs
1 egg + 1 1/2 tsp water whisked together – for egg wash
Directions for the Pâte à Choux:
Preheat the oven to 400º degrees
Line a cookie tray with a piece of parchment paper – when you are done making the pate a choux squeeze out 4 dime size pieces of dough on each corner of the cookie tray, then place parchment over that – to hold in paper in place while you form eclairs
Bring the water, butter, salt and sugar to a rolling boil over medium-high heat in a medium size sauce pan
Stir in all of the flour and continue to stir vigorously with a wooden spoon for about 1 1/2 minutes – which will start to make a film on the bottom of the pan
Turn out flour-egg mixture into a large glass bowl and stir to cool for 1 minute
Crack eggs into a bowl to make sure there are no shells
Begin to add one egg at a time into the dough and keep mixing with a wooden spoon
The mixture will look broken up at first but no worries because it comes back together
After each egg is absorbed into the flour mixture ADD another egg and repeat stirring
Spoon the Pate a Choux dough into a pastry bag … I don’t even use a tip here
Cut about 3/4″ off the end of the pastry bag
Twist down the open end of the bag a little to keep dough enclosed and to put pressure on the cut off end
Squeeze out 3-4″ x 3/4″ rows of Pate a Choux dough to form eclairs making sure they are about 2″ apart
Brush with egg wash and smooth with your finger if needed to smooth any bumps
Put into 400º oven for 15 minutes
Turn down to 350º for another 25 minutes
Turn oven off and open door 5″ but leave eclairs in the oven to dry out another 10 minutes
Ingredients for the Pastry Filling:
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
Pinch of salt
2 cups milk room temperature
6 lg eggs yolks room temperature
1 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Directions for the Vanilla Custard Filling:
In a medium sauce pan add sugar and corn starch and whisk to combine
In a medium bowl whisk milk and egg yolks until combined
Whisk in milk and egg mixture into sugar and corn
Turn heat to medium/high and bring to a boil
As soon as it comes to a boil whisk 5 SECONDS ONLY and TAKE OFF HEAT continually whisking, after 5 seconds put BACK ON heat for 5 SECONDS and IMMEDIATELY take off heat
DO NOT BOIL ON HEAT FOR MORE THAN 10 SECONDS or the texture will become grainy
Add in butter and vanilla while still whisking
Strain the custard into a glass bowl
Stir to cool slightly and cover directly onto custard saran wrap OR Pour into a prepared tart shell, then into the frig and when cooled and thickened top with fresh sliced fruit and voilà another dessert! …just saying 🙂
Place into the frig for atleast 2 hours up to 3 days
Take the thick pastry cream out of frig and whisk til smooth -5 seconds and the texture will become smooth and ready to place in the pastry bag to pipe
Ingredients for the Chocolate Dipped Toppping:
4 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup confectioners sugar to desired thickness
Heat the cream to a small sauce pan and bring to a boil
Pour the hot cream over the chocolate chips and vanilla in a medium size bowl and let it melt the chocolate for 2 minutes
Whisk the cream and chocolate until smooth
With a whisk slowly add in confectioners sugar while whisking until smooth
If the chocolate gets cooled and too thick to dip heat for a minute over double boiler
Dip the tops of the eclairs in the warm chocolate glaze
Set on a cookie tray
Place into the frig uncovered for at least 1 hour to set the glaze
Wait until you taste these decadent sticky buns first hand! Such an easy recipe to follow making these homemade gourmet sticky buns that melt in you mouth! PERFECT for VALENTINE’S DAY morning or any occasion for that matter. The dough is light and chewy. The pecan glaze is soft and caramel like and the cream cheese icing is the best I have ever had. The cream cheese icing has a tablespoon of lemon juice giving it the perfect balance. If you don’t have lemons you can always substitute the citrus with pineapple juice. It’s nice to have the different options with these two toppings to offer to your family and guests.
The dough recipe for these homemade gourmet sticky buns couldn’t get any easier. You can literally make it in 8 minutes including the five minutes of kneading with the dough hook. Although, you do have to wait for eggs and buttermilk to come to room temperature. There isn’t any worrying about activating the yeast in a 105º-110º liquid either. It is important to buy a fresh packet of yeast though. It’s better to make sure it’s a fresh packet then dealing with one that’s been sitting in your cabinet for a while if you are not a big baker. It was very fun to play with the different sticky bun and glaze recipes that Dana and I had from Cooks, bon appétit and our own mish-mosh of things. That’s what makes the whole experience worth while, eliminating what doesn’t work and substituting what does. So we got all that out of the way for you here.
If you have a little time, planning for the homemade sticky bun dough, glaze and cream cheese frosting to be made a day or two ahead would be ideal! Once you make these for your family and friends you will become the honorary sticky bun chef!
This amazing German pancake is an awesome dish to make for your holiday guests! It’s festive and quite spectacular when your guests see how your pancake has puffed to enormous heights when you take it out of the oven. Not only does it make for a wonderful presentation but it’s made with little effort and can be served for breakfast or as a dessert!
A German pancake is really a giant popover. “Dutch baby” is another name for this pancake and rumor has it that the reason behind this name came about when a chef’s young child couldn’t pronounce the German word for German, “Deutsche”. Supposedly, this mis-pronunciation lead German Pancakes to the alternative name “Dutch Babies”. A couple other names that this German pancake has been called are “Dutch puff” and “Bismark”.
My kids get very excited for that moment when this amazing German pancake comes out of the oven! It has a bit of a custard like texture inside yet very light. We love eating these pancakes and have come to the conclusion that they taste like something in between a pancake, french toast and a crêpe!
My Vermont friends turned me on to this recipe years ago and I have been making them ever since. It’s fun for me to play around with recipes and see what works best so to this recipe I have added another egg, some vanilla and a little cinnamon. You can add grated nutmeg instead if you prefer. Originally, these homemade pancakes were served with lemon and confectioners sugar. I like to served them with confectioners sugar, real maple syrup, fresh blue berries and a dollop of my favorite “Wild Blueberry Preserves” by Bonne Maman, a product of France (sold right in our local market at Stop and Shop). German pancakes are so easy to make, taking on the same amount of time as making ordinary pancakes. The wonderful thing here is you are not glued to the stove pouring batter every few minutes.
Usingcast iron is the way to go here because it holds in the heat evenly distributing it throughout the pan but I have made them in other oven proof pans and it comes out great. Some recipes have you pre-heating the pan in the oven, pulling out the rack, pouring in the batter, then pushing the rack back into the oven and in my opinion, this is a disaster waiting to happen since the batter can easily swoosh over the sides causing the oven to smoke ! The easiest way to start these homemade German pancakes is on the stove top and then into the oven for the duration. The finished product will make you will feel like a french pastry chef all day. This could also make for a great dessert to an impressive dinner with entrees liketurkey stuffed peppers,pulled beef tacos & mango salsaoryogurt-chicken kabobs & tzatziki. Enjoy!
Ingredients for Traditional German Pancake:
5 extra LG eggs (or 6 large)
1 cup Milk – cold
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 Tsp. salt
1/4 Tsp cinnamon
1 Tsp. vanilla
4 Tbsp butter -cut up into 4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) COLD
Ingredients for savory German Pancake:
5 extra LG eggs (or 6 large)
1 cup Milk – cold
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 Tsp. salt
1/2 cup swiss cheese OR cheddar
1/2 cup thin diced ham OR sauteed mushrooms
1/3 cup green onion OR sauteed sweet onion
NOTE: If you are going the cheddar, sauteed mushroom & onion route add 1 cup fresh baby spinach too!
4 Tbsp butter -cut up into 4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) COLD
Pre-heat oven to 425º
In a medium bowl whisk dry ingredients together
Begin to whisk in milk, vanilla and eggs into dry ingredients just until combined …Note : it puffs more if your milk and eggs are cold!
Put 10″-12″ cast iron pan on stove top on low heat for 1 minute –THIS WILL WORK IN ANY 10″-12″ OVEN PROOF PAN –
Turn heat up to high on cast iron pan, wait 1 minute til pan is hot but not smoking, then add 4 Tbsp of cut up cold butter
When the butter gets frothy add the batter, do not stir
Immediately take off heat and put into oven for 22 minutes until golden and puffy
NOTE: if you are doing “SAVORY German Pancake” …after you remove from heat top with your extra ingredients, do not stir, and place into oven for the 22 minutes
When you take it out of the oven transfer to a plate with a spatula and sprinkle with confectioners sugar.
Slice into wedges and serve with maple syrup, warm fresh strawberry jam/sauce (Recipe BELOW) and whipped cream! …mmm!
Ingrediesnts and Directions for EASY STRAWBERRY JAM/SAUCE:
1 lb. hulled and chopped fresh stawberries
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup fresh sqeezed lemon juice
Finely dice strawberries and add to a wide 8″ sauce pan with 1 cup sugar and lemon juice
Over med/high heat bring to a rolling simmer
Keep an eye on the mixture, keep simmering for 15 min. – make sure it doesn’t boil over
Skim off white foam that accumulates around the edges while simmering as this will make the jam cloudy (its just air bubbles that form in the jamming process)
Remove from heat and serve warm with German pancake
Jar the remaining strawberry sauce and refrigerate as it will thicken into a jam as it cools! It will stay good for 2 weeks in the frig.
The Frittata first came about as practical dish in theory for using up those leftovers in our frig but when adding in some lovely melting cheeses and a pinch of dairy it turns into something much more then that. Not to mention this Italian egg dish is just as delicious served room temperature as it is warm.
Making a gourmet frittata is as easy as can be leaving you with lots of room to be creative. The measurements do not have to be exact at all to get wonderful results. You can use 10-12 eggs, and mix in heavy cream, half and half, sour cream, or even creme fresh. You can also change out the cheeses to one that you prefer. Use feta or goat cheese, cheddar, Monterey Jack, Pepper jack, Colby-jack, Swiss or Gruyère, Parmesan and so on. It’s nice to mix it up too using a combination of these cheeses. I really love using up the leftover veggies in the fridge and don’t mind sautéing up one or two more to enhance the leftovers.
By no means does this homemade frittata have to remain a vegetarian either! Pack in the meat using chunks or slices of ham, cooked sausages, bacon, steak and well that list goes on too. I think the trick here is not to fuss too much, be sure to add a little dairy and be sure not to over cook the frittata thinking that it’s not done enough because you see a little movement in the center when taking it out of the oven. Remember it will keep cooking after you take it out of the oven and it will also congeal a bit with the cooling process. Enjoy the show and making this yummy gourmet frittata! You may want to try some grilled Asian Salmon orCaesar Saladwith this frittata too.
12 extra-lg eggs
1/2 cup half & half, heavy cream or creme fresh
1 1/2 cup gruyere cheese ( 1/2 cup is for the topping) OR 1/2 cup cheddar, 1/2 gruyere with addtional 1/2 cup mix of each for the topping
1/3 cup grated Reggiano Parmesan
8 oz. pkg baby bella mushrooms sliced
1 1/2 cup chopped or sliced onions
6 small tomatoes sliced 1/8″ thick to decorate top of frittata before you bake it
1 tsp salt (1/2 tsp into eggs & 1/4 tsp each for onion/mush. and 1/4 tsp when you add kale)
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp Siracha (or more…to taste)
Pre-heat oven to 350º
Wash and dry kale leaves
Remove kale leaves from the ribbing (stalk) as shown in show
Slice mushrooms, onions, kale and tomatoes – set aside
Whisk 12 eggs, then whisk in 1/2 tsp salt. 1/4 tsp finely ground pepper and half and half
Add 3 tbsp olive oil to 10″ cast iron pan or oven proof pan on med/high heat
Add onions and sauté for 5 minutes
Add mushrooms to onions and 1/4 tsp salt, then sauté another 5 minutes on med/high
Add in kale when juices begin to release from the mushrooms along with another 1/4 tsp salt and sprinkle of pepper, and a few shots of Siracha
Sauté kale mixture for 5 minutes while stirring just to wilt slightly
Add 1 cup of gruyere and 1/2 cup of parm to egg mixture and give it a quick stir
Turn off heat on cast iron pan and add in egg mixture
Give it a stir to the veggies and egg mixture
Then top with 1/2 cup more gruyere cheese and decorate with sliced tomatoes
Put into the oven and bake for approx. 23 minutes
Take a peak at the 20 minute mark to make sure that the top hasn’t gotten golden
You only want slight golden on outer edge
Take out frittata and let sit for 20-30 minutes
NOTE: the frittata will keep cooking after you remove it from the oven
Slice and serve with a sprinkle of grated Reggiano Parmesan on top
Barbara’s homemade chocolate pecan pie is like nothing you’ve had before. Not only do you get that gooey texture with a hint of nutty caramel because it’s a pecan pie but a chocolaty finish slides right on in and makes you say wow! Gooey, nutty, caramel, chocolate …need I say MORE? In fact, it is plenty chocolaty so if you wanted to nibble on those “special dark” Hershey’s chocolate chips while you are making the pie feel free it wouldn’t make the pie any less delicious.
When Barbara first delivered her scrumptious homemade pecan pie to my house I was beside myself. I just couldn’t believe my eyes and with an invitation to her Christmas Eve party to top it off which she also cooks for. I later found out that she makes seventy pies that get hand delivered with the invite to her party. It all began fifteen years ago at a surprise party her husband Peter threw for her where stories evolved of first meetings with Barbara and her gifts of homemade chocolate pecan pie. From that point on the pie numbers grew and it now totals out at around 72 pies.
This gourmet chocolate pecan pie of Barbara’s has become a tradition for many of the families on her pie list that wait in anticipation of her delivery in order to take the pie to their relatives on Christmas Day. This pie freezes extremely well and slicing it before freezing making for easy removal without having to thaw the whole pie is ideal. I must say though eating my slice right out of the freezer before it thaws is my new favorite way…wait til you try it!
Barbara is very busy in the month of December when all the pies get baked and delivered. She does get things going back in September though putting in an order for a twenty-two pound box of pecans from Georgia which arrive around Thanksgiving time. Then the whole process takes off from the chopping of the pecans in the food processor, measuring exact amounts placed into baggies and stored in the frig , to purchasing large bottles of Karo syrup that are shelved until needed and so on until December is upon her and the baking begins.
This truly is a labor of love for Barbara and I’m very grateful to have become a part of this amazing tradition and see first hand how inspirational she is. You can see for yourself and hear some of the extremely funny stories that go along with Barbara’s pie making in my “Homemade Chocolate Pecan Pie Show” above. I hope you enjoy the show and now you too can make this homemade chocolate pecan pie part of your family tradition. If you have the time and are only making a pie or two you can check out my “Perfect Pie Crust In 5 Minutes Recipe” or even my “Best Blueberry Pie!” recipe if you are looking to have a second pie 😉
Ingredients – Pre-Heat oven to 375º:
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans (on the finer side but NOT a powder)
handful pecan halves for decoration
6 oz. HERSHEY’S Special Dark chocolate chips (full bag for 2 pies)
1 cup light Karo corn syrup -NOTE: Spraying the inside of measuring cup with Pam vegetable or coconut oil will help the Karo syrup ease out (full bottle of Karo for 2 pies)
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup melted butter and cooled to ROOM TEMPERATURE or LUKE WARM
1 1/2 Tsp pure vanilla
4 lg eggs lightly beaten (WITHOUT any frothiness occurring)
Sprinkle 1 tsp of flour onto the bottom of the pie plate just to act as a light coating
Lay out room temperature pie dough into pie plate and form edges like a scallop shell as shown in show above
In a large bowl mix luke warm butter and sugar to combine with a whisk
Add in Karo Syrup and vanilla to the butter/sugar mixture and combine with a whisk
Lastly, add in already whisked eggs and gently whisk to combine only – Don’t want froth
Mix in chocolate chips and ground pecans and mix with a spatula
Pour into pie shell
Decorate the top of the pie with pecan halves
Add rim covering on top of pie so crust does not burn
Bake for 55-60 minutes
Let cool slightly, slice and serve with bourbon, scotch, wine, coffee or milk…oh and also great with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream 😉
Freezes incredibly well- make sure to cut into slices before you freeze for easy removal. In fact, I love the texture of having the chocolate pecan pie right out of the freezer without thawing! – you should try it this way 🙂