Author Archives: Andrea

Toasted Coconut Cream Puffs

cream puffs in lineCream Puffs definitely make the cut into my Top Five Favorite Desserts of All Time. You might recall that last year I blogged about classic Cream Puffs and Gougeres, which are both made with the same type of dough— pâte à choux. Ever since I blogged about those classic whipped cream-filled cream puffs, I’ve been dreaming of another variation: Toasted Coconut Cream Puffs.

cream puff overheadFor the toasted coconut version I decided to fill the cream puffs with a combination of coconut-infused pastry cream and whipped cream. For a complex yet mellow coconut flavor, I toasted the coconut in the oven before infusing it in the milk and cream for the pastry cream. Additional toasted coconut made its way into the cream puff dough, and a final dusting of toasted coconut on top of the cream puffs ensured these cream puffs were undeniably coconutty. Drizzles of chocolate and caramel broadened the flavor spectrum while adding a bit of elegance.

cream puffs and plateThere’s another reason I had the urge to blog about cream puffs again: I’ve been scouring David Lebovitz’s impressive Paris Pastry app in preparation for Sam’s and my grand adventure to Paris and Cologne this week. The app’s gorgeous photos of eclairs and religeuses have me salivating and dreaming of pastries. I thought it would be fun to have one last baking hurrah before my trip, so I made these as a nod to Paris pastries.

cream puff single

Au revoir, friends! See you in a few weeks with plenty of pictures of Paris pastries!

cream puffs diptychMake the Toasted Coconut Pastry Cream

Recipe adapted from Michael Ruhlman’s crème pâtissière recipe (Ratiop 215).

Ingredients
3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
½ cup plus 3 tablespoons milk
1½ cups heavy cream, divided
¼ vanilla bean, spit lengthwise
¼ cup sugar
4 egg yolks
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons butter

  1. Toast the coconut. Preheat oven to 325°F. Toast the coconut for 8-10 minutes, until fragrant and golden brown. Set aside ¼ cup of the toasted coconut to use in the cream puff batter and as a garnish.
  2. Infuse the milk. Combine the remaining ½ cup coconut, ½ cup milk, 1 cup heavy cream and vanilla bean in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over moderate heat. Remove pan from heat and allow mixture to steep for 15 minutes.
  3. Prepare other ingredients. Meanwhile, combine the yolks and sugar in a medium-sized heatproof bowl. Stir vigorously to begin dissolving sugar. Prepare an ice bath of ice water in a container large enough to accommodate the saucepan. Stir together the cornstarch and remaining 3 tablespoons milk in a small bowl.
  4. Make the pastry cream. Once the cream has steeped for 15 minutes, remove and discard the vanilla bean. Bring the cream to a simmer once again and then gradually whisk it into the yolks and sugar. (Even though the cream will be gloppy from the coconut flakes, it is important to add the cream to the yolks gradually and to stir quickly so the hot cream does not cook the egg yolks.) Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and add the cornstarch mixture, stirring constantly. Continue stirring over medium heat until the custard becomes very thick and is just about to boil. (Don’t worry if the custard seems overly thick; it will be thinned out with whipped cream later.) Remove the pan from the heat and submerge the base in the ice bath, stirring constantly. Add the butter and stir to thorougly incorporate it. Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and refrigerate until cool, two to three hours.
  5. Whip cream. When you are ready to fill the cream puffs, whip the remaining 1 cup heavy cream with an electric mixer to hard peaks using a chilled bowl and chilled beaters.
  6. Combine pastry cream and whipped cream. Gently mix together the chilled pastry cream and whipped cream. Chill until ready to use.

Make the Cream Puffs

Recipe adapted from Michael Ruhlman’s pâte à choux recipe (Ratio, p 45).

Ingredients
1 cup water (8 oz.)
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (4 oz.)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 scant cup flour (4 oz.)
4 large eggs (8 oz.)
¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted (see pastry cream recipe)

  1. Prepare. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Mis en place: measure all ingredients and line them up so they’re within reach and ready when you need them.
  2. Make the Dough. Heat the water, butter and sugar in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon and bring the mixture to a boil. As soon as it boils and the butter has melted, add the flour. Stir like mad to incorporate the flour into the liquid. The dough will move from gelatinous goop to a shiny, cohesive ball that forms around the spoon as you stir. Continue stirring for 60 more seconds. This will cook the flour and remove its raw taste.
  3. Stir in the eggs. Spoon the dough ball into a clean bowl and let cool for two minutes. While the dough is still warm, heartily stir the eggs in one at a time. The dough will not accept the egg at first and look curdled, like spätzle. Continue stirring and eventually the egg will incorporate thoroughly into the dough. Add the other eggs one at a time, making sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next egg. Then stir in the toasted coconut. Alternatively, you can use an electric hand mixer or stand mixer with paddle attachment to beat in the eggs one at a time. Use a low speed to avoid beating extra air into the batter.
  4. Shape or pipe. Using two teaspoons or a small ice-cream scoop, place small mounds of dough about 1 inch apart on the baking sheets. My small ice cream scoop (7/8 oz. capacity) yielded 20 puffs. Alternatively, you can pipe with dough onto the baking sheet. Just make sure you pipe a mound and not a flat disk.
  5.  Bake. Bake the puffs at 425°F for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F and bake for 10-20 more minutes, until puffs have risen and are golden brown.

Assemble the Toasted Coconut Cream Puffs

Ingredients
Toasted Coconut Pastry Cream, above
Cream Puffs, above
2 tablespoons toasted coconut (reserved from pastry cream above)
caramel sauce (optional)
melted chocolate (optional)
 

  1. Slice the top of the cream puffs off with a sharp knife and fill with 1-2 tablespoons of coconut pastry cream. Replace top. Alternatively, place the pastry cream in a pastry bag fitted with a round tip. Poke a hole in the bottom of each cream puff with the pastry tip and fill with pastry cream.
  2. Drizzle the cream puffs with caramel sauce or melted chocolate and sprinkle with toasted coconut. Serve.

 

Heirloom Cookbooks: A Peek Into the Past

“Grandmother’s spicy kitchen with its gay curtains, neat rows of pots and pans, and loaves fresh from the oven is a heritage granddaughter treasures. Around that kitchen centered the heart of the home. Through it strong characters and good communities were built.” These are the introductory words to a cookbook I was recently given by my grandma. Lest you think the grandmother referred to in the cookbook refers to my grandma’s generation, consider this: the cookbook was published in 1942. That means the granddaughter mentioned would have been my grandma and the grandmother would actually be my great, great grandma.

cookbooks

I don’t remember either of my grandmas cooking much, but even so, I treasure the vintage cookbooks passed down from both grandmas. Today I’d like to share a few snippets from the Granddaughter’s Inglenook Cookbook, which was published in Elgin, Illinois in 1942 by the Brethren church. This cookbook is a revised version of the first Inglenook Cookbook, which was published in 1901. As you can imagine, the forty-one years between 1901 and 1942 brought great changes to kitchens and grocery shopping, and thus a new cookbook was needed to serve a new generation.

When I opened the cookbook, the first thing I noticed was the Baking Table on the inside cover. If your oven didn’t have a thermometer, there was an easy way to determine the temperature: bake white flour. If the flour turned light straw color in 5 minutes, the temperature was 250-350°F. If it turned golden brown, the temperature was 350-400°F, and so on. The Baking Table also lists the temperatures and time to cook bread, pies, potatoes, meats and more.

Take a look at the recipes and you’ll realize how important the cooking times and temperatures are. For example, the recipe for Pocketbook Rolls simply directs the baker to “Bake in hot oven.” No temperature or cooking time is given, but the reader can always refer to the Baking Table inside the front cover.pocketbook rolls

I also find it fascinating how simple the recipes are written. Consider this recipe for Crackling Corn Bread:

Crackling Corn Bread
Cut cracklings
1 qt. cornmeal
1 c. sour milk
½ tsp. soda
1 tsp. salt
Warm water
Heat the cracklings. Combine rest of ingredients, using enough water to mix well. Add to the heated cracklings, stirring thoroughly. Bake in a moderate oven.

This recipe doesn’t indicate the quantity of cracklings or warm water or what size pan to use or how long to cook the corn bread. Reading a recipe like this makes me realize that much of what is detailed in today’s recipes was once common knowledge. I like to think I know a fair bit about cooking, but by my great-grandmother’s standards, maybe I don’t know so much after all.

Just as passing years bring changes in clothing trends, so they bring changes in food trends. A few of the recipes in the cookbook made me chuckle for that very reason. Take, for instance, Health Drink.

Health Drink
2 pkg. raspberry jello
2 c. orange juice
4 c. hot water
juice of 2 lemons
Add water to jello and let cool to room temperature. Add juices, ice and serve, or place in refrigerator in jar to cool after mixing with fruit juice.

health drinkYes, friends, a Jello-based health drink. It’s hard to imagine making this in 2012. Then again, Gatorade and Powerade are pretty much the same sugar bombs, aren’t they?

The US has been known as a melting pot for generations, so I was curious to see what recipes were in the International Cookery section. I discovered a few Hungarian sweets, several African recipes that used peanut butter and taro root and many Chinese dishes. There were also four pages of recipes from India, which immediately grabbed my attention because Sam is from neighboring Pakistan. Yes, there was Dhal Curry with the traditional onion tardka; the funnel cake-like jalebies; and pillau, a more obscure rice dish (and one of Sam’s favorites). Who would’ve thought that here in a cookbook from 1942 Sam’s and my heritages would meet? pillau

There are too many interesting snippets from my heirloom cookbook to share with you in just one blog post, so I plan to make this a regular type of post on my blog. I’ll still be doing my usual recipe posts, but you can expect more peaks into the past regarding everything from stain removal tips to canning and candy making.

heirloom cookbooks

Sausage, White Bean and Arugula Soup

soup with titleIf you were to join me for lunch lately, you’d be eating a lot of soup. We might have Chicken and Rice Soup, Lettuce Soup or maybe this Sausage, White Bean and Arugula Soup. I don’t think it’s any secret that soup makes an ideal lunch food: It’s easy to make ahead and reheat for lunch; it’s usually full of veggies and other healthy things; and it freezes well. As much as I love cooking, making lunch can feel like a chore if I’m deep in other projects. Pulling a single serving of soup out of the freezer gives me one less thing to worry about.

Since tomorrow marks the first day of autumn, I thought this hearty soup would be a great way to usher in the new season. A blend of hot and sweet Italian sausage is the key to creating a spicy, flavorful broth. The paprika in the hot sausage adds ample heat, while the fennel of the sweet sausage lends it that characteristic Italian flavor. White beans add creaminess and wilted arugula provides a touch of bitterness.

soup horizontal_620pxThe traditional accompaniment for white beans and sausage is a bitter green called escarole, but this Italian cousin of endive proved elusive when I went grocery shopping. I figured my readers might also have trouble tracking it down and decided to use a more readily available green—arugula. If you can find escarole, use it; otherwise, arugula makes a fine substitute.

Happy autumn, friends! And enjoy the weekend.

Recipe adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook

Serves 4-6 as an entree

Ingredients

½ pound bulk hot Italian sausage
½ pound bulk sweet (mild) Italian sausage
7 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 cups packed arugula
2 (15 oz.) cans white beans (such as great northern or cannellini), drained and rinsed
4 cups chicken broth or stock
1 large tomato, diced
salt and pepper
½ cup grated parmesan cheese

Make the Sausage, White Bean and Arugula Soup

Brown the sausage in a large pot over medium heat, breaking the sausage into bite-sized pieces with a wooden spoon. Once the sausage is cooked, about 7-10 minutes, stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring frequently, until garlic softens, about 2 minutes. Stir in the arugula and cook until it wilts, about 2 minutes. Add the white beans, chicken broth and diced tomato, stir and bring to a simmer. Simmer for at least ten minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and garnish with grated parmesan.

Green Goddess Dressing

Hello, Dear Readers! Remember last month when I wrote a blog post for NewlyWife? Well, I’ve officially become a contributor on NewlyWife and will now post there once a month. Head over to NewlyWife now to check out my post on how to make Green Goddess Salad Dressing and homemade mayonnaise. Both are super easy and tasty, so you won’t want to miss it!

salad, tongs, dressing

I should also add that the inspiration for the post came from my new wooden salad bowl. I’ve had my eye on wooden salad bowls for a while, but the prices at stores like Crate & Barrel and Sur La Table put it in the “maybe later” category. When Sam and I saw a bamboo serving bowl at Ikea for $20, we popped it in our cart with hardly a discussion. Not only does the wood add a lovely warmth to our table setting, but the bowl is lightweight, unlike our porcelain salad bowl (which is actually even smaller than our new wooden bowl). If you’re in the market for an inexpensive wooden salad bowl, Ikea is the place to go.

I’ll be back tomorrow with another post for you here on Tomato Tango, so stay tuned!

Lettuce Soup

lettuce soup plainI know. Lettuce soup sounds less than appetizing. I wasn’t so sure about it at first either. As far as I was concerned, lettuce was best served crisp in a salad. After all, what better way to appreciate the cool, cunchy ribs of romaine or the delicately sweet leaves of red oak lettuce than chilled, gently torn and drizzled with olive oil and vinegar? Surely raw was the best way to appreciate the essence of lettuce.

But then there were the exceptions, poking and tugging their questions at my assertion: What about braised Swiss chard? And grilled iceberg lettuce wedges? Or the oh-so-popular kale and spinach smoothies? When I considered the many forms in which leafy greens appear at the dining table, lettuce soup began to sound a little less odd.

These are the thoughts that scuttled through my mind from the moment the cashier at La Boulange announced that the soup of the day was Herbs and Lettuces. I’m not sure whether it was my brief internal discourse on the essence of lettuce or the cashier’s reassurance that “It’s actually really good!” that convinced me, but I decided to live the wild life and order the lettuce soup.

A few minutes later a cup of dark green soup drizzled with olive oil arrived at my table. I swirled my spoon into the soup and inspected before I ate. It was pureed, much like a cream soup, and maintained its dark color throughout. I lifted the spoon to my lips and tasted. Not bad. In fact, it actually was “actually really good!” The soup was smooth and vegetal—oh wait, I’m describing soup not wine—the soup had a bright, herby-sweet vegetable flavor. What was lacking in texture (alas those cool, crisp ribs of romaine!) was made up for by concentrated lettuce flavor. I knew I would order this soup again.

It wasn’t until I tried recreating lettuce soup at home that I realized one of its chief virtues: Lettuce soup was the perfect vehicle for using the leafy greens so often wilting in my refrigerator. (That never happens to you?) Not only that, it provided a noble end for some sad looking spinach and freezer-burned green peas. A glug of Sauvignon Blanc, a swirl of crème fraiche and plenty of salt and black pepper were all that was needed to give the soup a boost—and prove that lettuce, whatever guise it assumes, is still lettuce.

This soup can be on the table in thirty minutes, but because the flavor improves with time, consider making it in advance.

Recipe adapted from Epicurious.com. 

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 head of lettuce, washed and roughly chopped (9 cups)
2 cups spinach, washed
1 cup of fresh or frozen green peas
1 medium potato, peeled and cubed
3 cups of water
¼ cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
¼ cup crème fraiche or sour cream
pepper
salt

Make the Lettuce Soup

Head the olive oil in a large pot over low heat until shimmering. Add the onion and sauté until soft, about six minutes. Add the garlic and coriander and sauté for one minute, stirring frequently so garlic does not brown. Stir in the lettuce, spinach, peas, potato cubes and water. Increase heat to medium, bring soup to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes or until potato is tender. Remove pot from heat and blend the soup until fairly smooth with an immersion blender or in batches in a standing blender. (Be extra careful when blending hot liquids! We don’t want any accidents.) Stir in the white wine and sour cream or crème fraîche. Season with plenty of salt and pepper.