Hay, Hay, Choux Your Stuff!

Barbara started Hay Hay It’s Donna Day long before I entered the blogosphere and encountered the addicting world of food blogs and now she has passed this wonderful event on to Bron, whom I am certain will be an excellent caretaker. Many Americans have never heard of Donna Hay and I cringe slightly at the common description of her as the ‘down under version of Martha Stewart’. Although I’ve yet to see a photo of Donna Hay, I have seen her drool-worthy magazines. In all fairness, I haven’t seen any of Martha’s magazines for several years, but the last time I looked it was full of time-consuming projects for beautifying the home, extravagant looking tables, and food that looked like a full time catering company had spent the week preparing. No wonder so many people are made to feel inferior and exhausted just by looking at her projects!

By contrast, Donna Hay’s magazine, with the motto of ‘Special Made Simple’, leaves me in a state of utter relaxation when I read it. It’s full of cool blues, greens, and white and the food styling is simple and elegant. Many of her recipes have a limited number of ingredients yet look absolutely gorgeous. It’s a style I heartily embrace as life is full of busyness and hectic activity and preparing food for family and friends shouldn’t leave you with too little energy to enjoy any of them. So while I haven’t participated in very many HHDD events, I absolutely love the concept and follow them even when I can’t join in the fun.

Our hostess this time is Suzana and she picked a choux (cream puff, profiterole, etc) recipe for her theme. Previously on this blog I have posted savory and sweet choux as well as a casserole version. I made two different versions this time. One is a plain choux that took advantage of leftover white chocolate mango mousse, from the last Daring Baker challenge, for the filling. I squiggled some white chocolate on the tops of these. For the other I made chocolate choux and filled it with ice cream and frozen yogurt (three flavors actually: vanilla, raspberry, and chocolate/vanilla swirl). I thought both of these fit well with the ‘special made simple’ concept. The chocolate version is rather like the ice cream cookie sandwiches that are so simple and fun for summer desserts but the choux pastry dresses it up for something a little more special.

Chocolate Cream Puffs

3/4 c. plus 2 Tbsp. flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 heaping Tbsp. dark cocoa

1/2 c. butter (1 stick)
1 c. water

4 eggs

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Stir together flour, sugar, and cocoa in a small bowl; set aside.

In a medium pan, bring the butter and water to a boil. Reduce heat to low and stir in the flour mixture with a wooden spoon, continually stirring until the mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat.

With an electric mixer, add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition until the mixture is smooth.

Drop by spoonfuls or pipe onto an ungreased baking sheet (I line mine with parchment paper) and bake for 25-35 minutes, depending on the size of puff. When the puff is finished baking, the outside should be firm and slightly crusty, the puff should move freely on the sheet (if it’s stuck to the sheet, it’s not done baking), and should be slightly darker brown.

Remove from oven and cool, away from drafts. Fill as desired.

SHF #43: Citrus!

When Tartelette announced the upcoming Sugar High Friday, brainchild of Jennifer of Domestic Goddess, with a theme of citrus, Oh! I had so many ideas. Some of them turned out better in my head than in reality. But the one you see pictured here is among the very best and the concept for it belongs to Tartlet 1. Back when the Daring Bakers tackled the Lemon Meringue Pie, Tartlet 1 loved the meringue but not the lemon filling and asked why the ‘lemon meringue’ didn’t mean meringue, like the meringue mushrooms, but lemon flavored. At that time I also had the idea to make an orange meringue pie rather than lemon as I thought it might be more palatable to certain household members.

So I did bake an orange meringue pie, using a pie crust made from chocolate sandwich cookies and using the Daring Baker recipe for the filling except using orange rather than lemon and the same meringue recipe. Because I remembered the meringue being quite a lot for the pie, I spread some on the pie and reserved the rest for the lemon meringue experiment. To the remaining meringue I added 1/2 t. lemon extract and about 2 Tbsp. lemon juice and beat it until it was thick and glossy again. Then I spread a heaping tablespoon of meringue on a parchment sheet and made about a 3-inch circle. Next, I piped meringue around the edge to make a cup. I baked these in a 225 F oven for about 30 minutes. I was hoping they would stay light colored but they did brown. The filling is just strawberries and sugar stirred together. These little meringue cups are my entry to Sugar High Friday. As a bonus, I’ll give you a slice of Orange Meringue Pie too.

Colorful Cruciferous Veggie Pasta

People are sometimes surprised to hear that there are days that even I don’t want to cook. I’d rather bake than cook anyway, as you’ve no doubt deduced already, but I get tired of the same old reruns and thinking about what to make that will please most of the people at the table. Some days, about once a week, I just want to pick up the phone and call for Dos Reales take away or order a pizza. Unfortunately, as our family has grown it means that we can’t easily get away with that for under $30. So about once a week we have what I would consider the next best thing to ordering out — pasta.

I *LOVE* pasta. Unfortunately, The Husband not so much . . . or at least I thought so until The Great Impasta seemed to have become his favorite restaurant and then I finally realized that it wasn’t the pasta he hated, it was the tomato-based sauces that I love. He likes thick pastas like linguine and fettucini and he loves creamy alfredo and pesto, but *not* tomato. Tartlet 1 is the same — loves the pesto and cheesy pasta but rejects tomato-based sauces. So some days I please the rest of our family and we boil a box of pasta and open a jar of tomato based sauce and warm some Italian bread and have a salad or a bag of frozen veggies and we have dinner for $6 instead of take out and have to hear at least one person at the table complain about the meal (The Husband doesn’t complain, *ever*) and some days I do something a little different. Today was one of the latter.

I’ve seen purple cauliflower at The Grocery a few times but haven’t tried it before. It was on sale this week and Tartlet 2 was just talking about she likes ‘white broccoli’ (cauliflower) so I thought I’d see what she thought of purple. I picked up a variety of other veggies (broccoli, snow peas, zucchini, carrots, roasted red peppers, and onion) and lightly stir-poached them with some garlic and seasoned it with basil and a little oregano. Then I tossed it with some angel hair pasta and grated Parmesan cheese. A nice light meal with plenty of colorful vegetables.

Ruth at Once Upon A Feast hosts a weekly Presto Pasta event and I absolutely love the variety and old favorites served up there. Go check out the weekly roundups and I’ll serve up a plate of this.

RRC#11: Momma Knows!

When we first moved to Illinois, one of my favorite Saturday pastimes was auctions. We found all sorts of treasures. Several times there was one particular thing we were waiting for and because they couldn’t get bids on lots, they would just keep adding and adding to it until suddenly the one thing we wanted was added to the pile — sold! $1. But now we have all this other stuff. At one auction I picked up a box of cookbooks as well as two boxes of rickrack and seam tape and some things that went straight to the garbage can without entering the house. Among the cookbooks was this little gem of culinary history:

Inside you can find recipes from the various regions of the US including pickle cured bacon (start with 100 lbs sides of bacon from fresh-killed hogs), curing hams (100 lbs of ham, use only corn-fed hogs), pig knuckles with sauerkraut, or stewed eels. The book was originally published in 1939 and this is the third printing in 1947, the year my mother was born. It’s not a book I turn to regularly, as you can imagine, but it is full of interesting things, like these salads — are these rabbits or rodents? Ewww.

But the book also makes me a little sad. Inside it was stuffed with newspaper clippings of recipes, a few handwritten recipes (in this box of cookbooks there must have been a dozen copies of the same ‘ham and veal loaf’ recipe and it made me wonder — was this a family favorite that was always requested? or the dreaded recipe that Aunt Helen brought to every gathering?). It made me sad that no one in her family wanted these treasures. I’m not exactly sure why, but I keep all the original stuff with the book — I’m an archivist at heart, I guess — including these photos and a personal note written on the back of a train car switching order that reads:

Dearest Helen,

Could you please do me this last favor. Helen I don’t mean to take advantage of you by depending on you cause I know how you stand to.

But as as I told you dear when you least expect it, you have every dime you let me have. Cause I don’t know how to express my thanks to you especially cause you been wonderful to me. But I won’t forget. I hate to ask, but could you spare $5.00 more & this will be it till I pay you back.


Don’t you want to know the rest of the story? My guess is he didn’t pay her back.

Anyway, when The Happy Sorceress announced the next Retro Recipe Challenge (thank you Laura Rebecca for this fun event) with the theme of recipes published before your mom was born, I knew to which cookbook I would refer. In this case, I took a recipe for a filling and used it for the top of a tart.

I made the orange version and made my tart a ‘Dreamcicle Tart’ by putting a sweetened cream cheese layer on the shortbread crust followed by the orange ‘filling’ and then garnishing with whipped cream and mandarin orange slices.

Thanks to our hostess for an opportunity to make use of this cookbook!

SHF: Asian Invasion

As promised, I’m back with more information on this birthday cake. Ramona’s birthday is on Tuesday and she said what she would really like to have is a steamed sponge cake such as could be found in a bakery in Taiwan, but sadly unavailable in central Illinois. Just knowing that there was a cake that couldn’t be found here, I was inspired to attempt it. What’s the worst that could happen? Dessert in the name of science. Off to the laboratory, Igor . . . er, the kitchen.

Coincidently, La Petite Boulangette selected ‘Asian Invasion’ as the theme for Sugar High Friday (the brilliant blog event created by Jennifer, The Domestic Goddess. Although our hostess suggested using Asian ingredients in a typical dessert, I opted for the dessert requested by my Asian friend.

After reading several recipes, I tried this one at Cooks.com. When I got to the actual steaming step, I found that my new 9-inch cake pan was too tall to put the lid on my wok and I don’t have a steamer. What to do? I read a bit online and someone else made their steamed sponge cake in the oven with a water bath and a foil tent. It took over 1.5 hrs for it to finish cooking. The frosting is slightly sweetened whipping cream and there is a layer of strawberries and whipping cream in the center. The final cake was tasty, but the top was a bit chewy from steaming so long; it also wasn’t as tall as I had expected/hoped. After we analyzed that cake, I decided that I would attempt it at least once more, using almond extract as Ramona said that would be the best (the original calls for lemon but I had orange on hand and used it instead).

I also saw another description of making a steamed sponge cake in which the person beat the egg whites separately and I thought that would help achieve the light, airy, delicate texture Ramona described. So I took the recipe I used the first time and separated the eggs and went on from there. But after beating the egg yolks and sugar and folding in the flour, I was left with a thick paste that I couldn’t possibly incorporate egg whites into. So rather than beat the egg whites, I dumped them into the mixing bowl and beat the entire mixture until it was fluffy and looked like cake batter. I steamed it in Ramona’s bamboo steamer for about 45 minutes and ended up with the cake on the left below. Despite its Lilliputian size and obvious birthday cake failure it tasted wonderful, but it used the last 1/2 t. of almond extract I had and I was without a vehicle for the day, so I decided to try again with the orange flavor. I followed the original recipe and method again as I did the first time, but using the bamboo steamer (it took over 30 minutes to steam, rather than the 20 minutes in the recipe). That yielded the cake below on the right.

The third time was a charm, apparently. It still doesn’t have quite the ‘melt in your mouth’ texture Ramona was looking for, though. It definitely tasted better with the almond extract, however, and if I ever made it again I would certainly want to use the almond.

I don’t think this will become the new birthday standard in our house, but it was fun to experiment with a new method. It’s also fun to make special cakes for people, like I did for Crystal (twice, even) and Mrs. V. Happy Birthday, Ramona!

Now I wonder what Natalie, Ellie & Ruth will request . . .  😉