Sunday, 31 August 2008

Chocolate Eclairs

The August 2008 theme of the Daring Bakers' Challenge is Chocolate Eclairs brought to us by our gracious hosts Tony and Meeta.

I was anxious not to miss this month's since I didn't get the chance to bake last month's which was the Praline Cake. This time the challenge was not that hard although since the recipe was adapted from Pierre Hermé's Chocolate Desserts you could be sure that the ingredients and procedures are long to ensure maximum yumminess. :)

Did I say it wasn't that hard? Well the last time I did choux pastry was about 20 years ago when I was still single! But I was right, the pastry was not a problem at all. It came all together just as I added the last egg. My only problem was grappling with piping it onto the baking sheets. After attempting it with folded parchment paper, I found an easier solution by putting the dough in a plastic bag then cutting one of the ends and it gave me my desired finger-like strips of dough. They came beautifully from the oven though I have to skip the instruction in the original recipe to keep the oven door ajar. I was sure it would not work in my fan-assisted/convection oven. The only thing I added is the slitting of the sides of the pastry right out of the oven then putting it back for another 5 minutes.

As reported by my fellow DBers, the pastry cream filling was heavenly. I did not use chocolates and substituted a few teaspoons of vanilla. I was not keen on having an all-chocolate eclair. Having contrasting vanilla then chocolate in a crispy pastry was what I was after. Lovely! Yum yum!

Chocolate Eclairs

Chocolate Éclairs

• Cream Puff Dough (see below for recipe) - fresh and still warm.
  1. Preheat your oven to 190°C/fan 170°C/375°F. Divide the oven into thirds by positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with waxed or parchment paper.
  2. Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough.
  3. Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 4 1/2 inches (about 11 cm) chubby fingers. Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff. The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.
  4. Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 12 minutes. After the 7 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking time should be approximately 20 minutes.
  5. Once out of the oven, quickly make slits on one side of each of the eclairs. Put them back to the oven for a further 5 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven then cool completely on a rack.
Notes:  The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.

*Assembling the éclairs:

• Chocolate glaze (see below for recipe)
• Chocolate pastry cream (see below for recipe)
  1. Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside the bottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.
  2. The glaze should be at room temperature. Spread (or dip it in) the glaze over the tops of the éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the bottoms with the pastry cream.
  3. Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottoms with enough cream to mound above the pastry.
  4. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry cream and wriggle gently to settle them.

  1. If you have chilled your chocolate glaze, reheat by placing it in a bowl over simmering water, stirring it gently with a wooden spoon. Do not stir too vigorously as you do not want to create bubbles.
  2. The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.

Cream Puff Dough

1/2 cup (125 g) whole milk
1/2 cup (125 g) water
1/2 cup (115 g) unsalted butter - diced
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup (140 g) all-purpose flour
5 large eggs - at room temperature, slightly beaten
  1. In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the boil.
  2. Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough
    will be very soft and smooth.
  3. Remove from heat then using your handmixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough. You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time you have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.
  4. The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.
  1. Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately.
  2. You can pipe the dough and the freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.

Filled Eclairs

Pastry Cream

2 cups (500 g) whole milk
4 large egg yolks
6 Tbsp (75 g) sugar
3 Tbsp cornstarch
2 1/2 Tbsp (40 g) unsalted butter - room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
200 g  dark chocolate - melted (optional)
  1. In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil.
  2. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heatproof bowl.
  3. Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture. Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.
  4. Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled.
  5. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat).
  6. [Optional] Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.
  7. Pour the pastry cream back into the heatproof bowl and stir in the vanilla.
  8. Set the bowl on an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth.
  9. Once the cream has reached a temperature of 60°C/140°F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments.
  10. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.
  1. The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.
  2. In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.
  3. Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not curdle.

Chocolate Glaze
(makes 1 cup or 300 g)

1/3 cup (80 g) heavy cream
100 g  dark chocolate - chopped
4 tsp (20 g) unsalted butter - cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
7 tbsp (110 g) Chocolate Sauce (recipe below) - warm or at room temperature
  1. In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.
  2. Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.
Notes:  It is best to glaze the eclairs right after the glaze is made, but if you are pressed for time, you can make the glaze a couple days ahead of time, store it in the fridge and bring it up to room temperature when ready to glaze.

Chocolate Sauce
(makes 1-1/2 cups or 525 g)

130 g  dark chocolate (or combination of milk and dark) - chopped
1 cup (250 g) water
1/2 cup (125 g) crème fraîche or heavy cream
1/3 cup (70 g) sugar
  1. Place all the ingredients into a heavy‐bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly.
  2. Reduce the heat to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.
  3. It may take 10‐15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon.
  1. You can make this sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for two weeks. Reheat the sauce in a microwave oven or a double boiler before using.
  2. This sauce is also great for cakes, ice-cream and tarts.
Chocolate Eclairs

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Grazing in Cornwall

On our recent trip to Cornwall, we had the chance to sample some restaurants in the area around the Lizard peninsula and Falmouth. Our base was nearest to Mullion - a pretty village on the western edge of the Lizard peninsula. In our first evening we decided to try the local chippies there.

The Galleon in Mullion
The fish and chips shop is called The Galleon Mullion.

Fish n Chips
We were quite impressed with the freshness of the fish and how tasty it was. You could almost taste the sea with every bite. The batter was crisp and cooked just right. The chips looks a bit soggy but it was good as well though not as crispy outside as the ones we were used to. Could it be because of the variety of potato they used? The mushy peas were nice though we noticed that the baked beans were microwaved.

Overall, this unfancy fish and chips shop is recommended if for just the fresh fish that they use. We will certainly be back if we are in the area. It's a shame it is currently on sale. I do hope the next owners will at least keep the quality of their offerings.

The Galleon Mullion
Nansmellion Rd
Cornwall   TR12 7BZ

Falmouth Harbour
The other one worth mentioning is the Waterside café in the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth. They’ve got a daily board specials in addition to the standard café fares of sandwiches, tea fodders, and snacks. The food was great with the fresh produce they used shining through in all the dishes we ordered. Besides the food, the café has a wonderful setting of having a front-side view of Falmouth harbour. While there we saw boats big or small come and go including a huge luxury cruise ship. I was so engrossed with all the goings on in the harbour that I forgot to take pictures of the food. All I have is the picture of our view (see above) isn't it great?

National Maritime Museum Cornwall
Discovery Quay
Cornwall   TR11 3QY

The downer we experienced was with the restaurant of the Roskilly’s organic farm in St.Keverne, Helston. It’s an organic farm that produces dairy products. The small farm was charming looking more like someone's backyard. Their ice cream was simply fabulous. I especially love the unusual flavours they have.

Naturally we thought their restaurant offerings would be great as well so we stayed on for their evening grill. Well, we were let down by the cooking to say the least. The grilled mackerel I had was not grilled enough on the outside. My husband's steak was the same. The grill probably was not hot enough. The accompanying leaf salads were limp with the rice curried one looking a bit too gooey for me never mind that the rice was undercooked. We should have known the portends of things to come when we sat down and there was the pervading stink of cow poo all over the place. I know it's a farm but ... well ... I don’t think it's ever appetising to eat with that smell hanging in the air. Sorry Roskilly we'll gladly take you ice cream, yoghurt, clotted cream and milk but we will have to give your restaurant a miss. I didn't get to snap any picture of the food because my family was just too anxious to get out of there.

Roskilly's Ice cream & Organic Farm
Tregellast Barton
St. Keverne
Cornwall   TR 12 6NX

What we had in Cream
On a visit to Tintagel to take a peek on King Arthur's fabled castle ruins, we stumbled on a great find. There is this modern-looking cafe in the main road of the town where we had afternoon tea. We thoroughly enjoyed the nice spaghetti bolognese (for my son) and my scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam. Downed of course with Earl Grey tea. They were delish!

The prices were reasonable plus the dining areas at the back get a great view of the coast. If ever you're in the area we recommend you try Cream Cafe.

Cream in Tintagel

Cream Cafe Bar
Atlantic Road
Cornwall   PL34 0DD

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Cornish Sea Salt

Cornish Sea Salt

Being someone on the look out for new things to try food-wise, I was delighted to spy this local Cornish Sea Salt when we visited the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall. It's just appropriate for the area to produce this since they are largely surrounded by sea water. Though I don't think I would be hurrying to buy the next box because it costs a whopping £4.00 while the top brand of flaky sea salt in supermarkets costs only £2.00! Seriously the sales people of this company should reconsider their pricing unless they want to market it in the upper bracket of the populace or foodie suckers like me who grab anything unusual and exotic.

Us Filipinos normally prefer to use sea salt because its superior taste to the normal fine table salt. It is essential not only for cooking but for eating fruits. Whether sweet or sour we would have a small mound in our palm dipping the fruit we're eating from time to time. You won't see that trait in many places. I think the Thais and Malaysians do the same so it must be a Southeast Asian thing.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Allrecipes UK

Calling all Cookery Masterminds!

To celebrate the launch of Allrecipes in the UK, us and our friends at Waitrose are offering you the chance to win £100 worth of grocery vouchers by proving you know your basil from your bay leaves!

To prove yourself as the UK’s Cookery Mastermind you will need to do the following:
  • Find the answers to the five questions listed below.
  • Take the first letter of each answer to make a secret code.
  • If your guess is correct you could stand a chance of winning a bumper weeks grocery shopping.

  1. What type of cheese is needed to make Nanmurat's legendary salad? Hint: Click here - Allrecipes.

  2. The Cobb Salad was invented in which country? Hint: Click here - Allrecipes.

  3. Which way does Norma Macmillian make her pear pudding? Hint: Click here - Allrecipes.

  4. Edie Moon's strawberry salad is both sweet and ______? Hint: Click here - Allrecipes.

  5. Polly Welby's heavenly chocolate mousse does not include which poultry product? Hint: Click here - Allrecipes.

Got your code?   Click here - Allrecipes - to enter the lucky draw.

Good luck and happy cooking!

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Berries Lime Drizzle Cake

Berries Lime Drizzle Cake

This was meant for the last SHF#45 hosted by Susan of Food Blogga. But as expected I forgot that the deadline was last Sunday! Never mind, I'd just like to share this very nice seasonal cake that got better as the days passed. It's not one that is to be eaten straight from the oven. I did that, after drizzling the lime syrup, and didn't like it at all. It was so sour and the lime syrup was so strong that I was afraid I would have blisters on my tongue. To the bin I was meaning to consign it but after 2 days of lying about on our dining table I tried again and was amazed by how much the flavour mellowed and everything came together. Fab! In fact this is great because it means this will be in the list of my do-ahead cakes which I can do at my leisure instead of being frantic the day before a party. Wonderful!

One of my well-thumbed favourite cake cookbooks, BBC Goodfood Cakes and Bakes, provided the recipe which I adapted. The batter base is of the butter variety and really tasted nice with that tangy lime syrup soaking it. I just wish the fruits were more evenly distributed in the middle rather than all sank at the bottom.

Berries Lime Drizzle Cake

225 g  butter - softened
225 g  caster sugar (superfine)
4 eggs - slightly beaten
250 g  self-raising flour
25 g  ground almonds
1/8 tsp fine salt
1 tsp grated lime zest (optional)
3 Tbsp lime juice
100 g  blueberries
100 g  raspberries

* For the syrup:
6 Tbsp lime juice
100 g  caster sugar (superfine)
  1. Grease and line the base and sides of an 8-inch/20cm square or round cake pan. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/350°F.
  2. Beat the butter with the caster sugar together until light and fluffy.
  3. Continue beating while adding the eggs in a steady stream until fluffy.
  4. Beat in the lime zest (if using) then with a wooden spoon fold in the flour, salt, and ground almonds.
  5. Fold in the lime juice making sure to incorporate it well.
  6. Fold in three-quarters of the raspberries and blueberries.
  7. Pour the batter into the cake pan. Scatter the rest of the berries on top.
  8. Bake for about 1 hour or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  9. While the cake is baking, gently heat the lime juice and caster sugar without allowing to bubble.
  10. Once the cake is out of the oven while it is still hot, prick all over with a skewer and spoon the syrup evenly over the top.
  11. Cool completely then turn out from the pan. Store in a covered container and leave to mature for a day (or overnight) before serving.

Berry Lime Drizzle Cake

Wednesday, 6 August 2008


I love seafood - that includes not only fish but most importantly prawns and crabs. It might have something to do with me growing up in a fishing village and eating seafood almost everyday. Of all the ones I mentioned, it is only the crab that I haven't tried buying fresh and cooking here in UK. Like prawns they are quite pricey and you get less per weight because of the thick outer shell. But man, once you get into the meat it is heaven!

Of particular note is the Alaskan king crab which is particularly noted for its size. Their legs/claws are usually more than a foot long. And of course they are also known for their very white tasty meat. Unfortunately, the dwindling numbers of Alaskan king crabs, notwithstanding the dangerous environment for their fishing offshore of Alaska, means higher prices for us consumers.

Nevertheless, it does not prevent me from dreaming of cooking them, eating them, etc. I even clipped recipes of the likes of Maryland crab cakes (yum!), Singaporean chilli crabs (drool!), and even crab linguini (slurppp!) in the hope that someone (a friend?) might give me, say, a bucket of Alaskan king crabs and ask me to cook them. Hah! What a dream ...