Cream Puffs

Today I decided to take on a new baking challenge.  Cream puffs can be difficult, but if you follow the directions carefully they are a delicious treat.  The texture is light, fluffy, sweet and creamy.  I will be seeing Jonathan tomorrow and I will try my best to save a few for him. (Yes, they are that good!  I ate four after I had finished arranging them on the plate.)

The recipe I used was from the Joy of Baking – a classic resource for all kinds of recipes.  I followed the directions and out of the oven came perfectly golden little puffs of pastry.  An added touch was a new bottle of Madagascar vanilla extract that I used for the cream filling.  The flavour was delicious!  For a garnish I chose fresh raspberries that added colour and complimented the flavour of the cream puffs perfectly.

My best tip is to watch the puffs carefully so they do not burn.  After you have turned the heat down to 350F if the puffs look golden and crisp after 20 minutes, you can turn off the oven and leave the door ajar for them to cool.  I doubled the recipe below because 12 cream puffs is not enough, especially if you love sweets and pastries!

Ingredients:

Choux Pastry:

1/2 cup (65 grams) all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon granulated white sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) (57 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1/2 cup (120 ml) water

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Glaze:

1 large egg

Whipped Cream:

1 cup (240 ml) heavy whipping cream (double cream) (35-40% butterfat)

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 tablespoons granulated white sugar, or to taste

Garnish:

Powdered (Confectioners or icing) sugar

Instructions:

Choux Pastry: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly butter or spray the pan with a non stick vegetable spray.

In a bowl sift or whisk together the flour, sugar and salt.

Place the butter and water in a heavy saucepan over medium high heat and bring to a boil. (Make sure that the butter melts before the water boils to reduce the amount of evaporation.) Remove from heat and, with a wooden spoon, add the flour mixture, all at once, and stir until combined. Return saucepan to the heat and stir constantly until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan and forms a thick smooth ball (about 1-2 minutes). Transfer the dough to your electric mixer, or use a hand mixer, and beat on low speed to release the steam from the dough (about a minute). Once the dough is lukewarm start adding the lightly beaten eggs (dough will separate and then come together) and continue to mix until you have a smooth thick paste (dough will fall from a spoon in a thick ribbon). Spoon or pipe 12 small mounds of dough onto the baking sheet, spacing about 2 inches (5 cm) apart. With a pastry brush, gently brush the tops of the dough with a lightly beaten egg. 

Bake for 15 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Continue to bake for a further 30 to 35 minutes or until the shells are a nice amber color and when split, are almost dry inside. Turn the oven off, poke a couple of holes in each puff and, with the oven door slightly ajar, let the shells completely cool (and dry out). 

Whipped Cream: In a large mixing bowl place the whipping cream, vanilla extract, and sugar and stir to combine. Cover and chill the bowl and whisk in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes. When chilled, whip the cream just until stiff peaks form. 

To Assemble: Split the pastry shells in half and fill (or pipe) with whipped cream. Place the top half of the pastry shell on the whipped cream and dust with powdered (confectioners or icing) sugar. Leftover Cream Puffs can be stored in the refrigerator.

Decadent White Chocolate Chip Cookies

This week I visited Jonathan in Waterloo.  He was doing research for his M.A thesis and I did some baking! When these cookies came out of the oven Jonathan said they were like a white chocolate version of the President’s Choice “The Decadent” Chocolate Chip Cookies (which is a good thing).  Cookies are wonderful brain food for writers.  Many famous and brilliant thinkers would not have accomplished their great works had it not been for nourishing food and delicious cookies, I’m sure!

The texture of these cookies is similar to shortbread with a rich buttery flavour.   The brown sugar added depth and richness and the white chocolate chips gave a sense of fun.  My younger Sarah sister claims that white chocolate is a waste of time and not real chocolate, however, I think even she would enjoy these cookies.

In other news, Jonathan and I went to a restaurant yesterday for a date night in Kitchener and were very disappointed.  It was a new Italian restaurant that boasted in-house made pasta.  Unfortunately, just because it’s made in house, doesn’t mean it’s going to be good – the pasta was chewy and dry.  I will not even post a picture of the dinner or name the restaurant.  What I will tell you is that the Oliver and Bonacini Cafe Grill in Waterloo continues to be my favourite restaurant for pasta and pizza.  Below see a photo of my favourite dish from Oliver and Bonacini.  It is a scrumptious smoked salmon penne alla vodka.  This dish is seriously heavenly and I hope to recreate it in my kitchen sometime soon!

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups white chocolate chips

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F (165°C). Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

2. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside. In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended.

3. Beat in the vanilla until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended.

4. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon. Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time (for giant cookies) or a tablespoon at a time (for smaller cookies) onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.

5. Bake larger cookies for 15 to 17 minutes, or 10 to 12 minutes for smaller ones (check your cookies before they’re done; depending on your scoop size, your baking time will vary) in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Muffins

Jonathan and I were at COBS Bread before Easter buying hot cross buns and I decided to buy a cranberry white chocolate chip scone.  The scone was very tasty and I held the flavour combination in the back of my head – and added it to my baking to-do list.  While I was at the grocery store yesterday, I thought I should pick up some cranberries and white chocolate chips to make a muffin version.

Usually my stomach is sensitive to cocoa and milk chocolate, however some brands of white chocolate don’t cause any stomach pain.  I did some reading on Wikipedia about why this might be and the answer seemed to be because white chocolate doesn’t contain cocoa solids.  I am also very cautious about if nuts are processed in the same factory.  The Chipits brand doesn’t seem to aggravate any stomach sensitivity or allergies, so I used them for this recipe – hooray!

I love cranberry and the sweet and tart combination was definitely a winner.  I enjoy baking my own sweet treats and muffins are a splendid treat.  Making my own baked goods is really the only way to know they are allergy safe.  I made them in a mini version so that I can eat more of them and not gain ten pounds.    It probably wouldn’t be the best idea to eat these every day, but every once in a while they are great.  The mini muffins are rich and decadent, sweet and tart – simply yummy!

Some of these muffins are in the freezer for when I see Jonathan next.  I am sure he will enjoy them just as much as I do.

Ingredients

2 cups all purpose flour

½ cup brown sugar

½ tsp salt

1 tbsp baking powder

½ cup milk

¾ cup sour cream

¼ cup canola oil

2 eggs, beaten

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup frozen cranberries – dusted with 1 tsp of flour

¾ cup white chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Mix together in a large bowl the flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt.
  3. Add in the milk, sour cream, canola oil, eggs and vanilla extract.  Stir until thoroughly combined, but do not over stir.
  4. Dust the frozen cranberries with a teaspoon of flour and then fold them into the muffin batter.  Add in the white chocolate chips until they are evenly distributed.
  5. Grease the mini muffin pans with margarine or cooking spray.
  6. Fill the muffin batter ¾ of the way full.
  7. Bake for 18-20 minutes.  If you want regular sized muffins the cook time will be longer 20-25 minutes.
  8. This recipe makes 3 dozen mini muffins.
  9. Enjoy!