Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Less is More

Okay, I'm kind of on an éclair kick...bear with me.  I thought this story was so funny about a French pastry chef seeing an "eclair" while visiting Costco.  I tried to make my pastries to French specs, but they are probably still a bit on the large size.  For fun, I bought an eclair from a bakery here in Virginia.  Here they are, side by side...

A while back I read the book French Women Don't Get Fat.  If you have considered reading it, you can save yourself some time by looking at the picture above.  It pretty much sums it up: eat delicious, satisfying foods in smaller, but with more quality, quantities.  Aside from the health perspective, sometimes it's fun to splurge, and I think it has more impact in my brain when I eat two or three little sweets vs. eating one monster.  Yum, yum, yum.   

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Pâte à Choux and Éclairs

I've wanted to try something other than this cake made with pâte à choux for a while, but I've felt a bit intimidated.  Maybe it's the French name?  Last week I decided to get over it and try making a batch of éclairs.  I'm so glad I did! It's not that hard, and I found that it isn't as fragile as I had imagined.  It was also my first attempt at pastry cream and chocolate ganache!  It was all so much fun!  

I am by no means a pro after my brief exploration, but, if you want to make éclairs too, here are my brief notes on each component...

Choux...I made three different batches of the dough just to see what I liked the most.  I didn't find that one recipe was better than another.  As usual, I did find that I needed to bake for a lot longer than the recipes recommended, but that's probably just my oven.  To help the éclair shells keep their shape, I pulled them out when the were finished baking, poked holes for steam to escape, and then returned them to the oven (turned off) for a few minutes.  Also, I do prefer piping them with the star tip.  They seem to crack less than when piped with a round tip.  Next time, I will use a larger tip.  I had to squeeze very hard and move slowly to get the right size (hence, the squiggles).  

Pastry Cream...I used a recipe by David Lebovitz's book Ready for Dessert It was easy to follow, and, most importantly, very delicious.  Pastry cream can be used to fill so many things...cream puffs, cakes, other pastries...this is what I lay awake in bed thinking about.

Chocolate Ganache...I used this recipe from Ina Garten.  I've had good luck with her recipes in the past, and this one was no different.  She adds a small amount of coffee to the ganache.  It brings a richness that I found to be just right for the éclairs.  The pastry cream and choux are so gentle the chocolate needed to pack a punch.  I plan on using this for many other things in the future...also something that will keep me awake.

These were sooooo delicious!  They were worth every effort, and I am already looking forward to making another batch!

Ooo...one final note... I froze a few un-filled, un-frosted, baked shells.  They thawed nicely.  Definitely a great way to keep from eating the whole batch in one sitting.  

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Apple Pie + Biscuits

A friend brought this recipe to my attention, and I immediately got busy.  It's by Joy the Baker, and you can find this recipe here. It's a part of her #bakingbootcamp challenge. Apple pie is one of my favorite desserts, and I'm pretty crazy about biscuits too. How could an apple pie biscuit be anything other than delicious?

I have a recipe book where I store "the keepers". Let's just say this one went straight to the book. If you are looking for a fall sweet that's not pumpkin spice, because everyone needs a break from that occasionally, I suggest you whip up some Apple Pie Biscuits ASAP! Your family will thank you.

***My mind is also running wild with other pie/dessert and biscuit combos...cherry pie biscuits, pecan pie biscuits, strawberry shortcake biscuits, peach cobbler biscuits...

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Fashion Project

It's always nice when you find a company that is having success by doing good.  Recently, I have been impressed with Fashion Project.  Visit their website for full details, but the idea is that you send in your used designer items, they sell them, and they donate some of the proceeds to a charity of your choice.  Then, as a thank you, you get a gift card to Nordstrom (if you send enough items that meet their qualifications).  I've now sent in two batches of donations, and the whole process has been very easy for me.

With summer drawing to an end, it's an excellent time to evaluate the items in your closet.  Why store clothes that you no longer need or want when they could be used to help others?
This is the box they sent me with pre-paid bags for donations and extra bits of info.

*If you are looking to acquire some new goodies, Fashion Project can also be a great place to find a bargain.

*If you are looking to make some money from your old clothes, this is not your best option.  For that, I recommend Ebay or a local consignment/resale shop.  However, if you are looking to donate some items, and you want an easy process, this is a great resource.  

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Saturday's Scoop

Happy Saturday!  Saturday's are perfect days for lots of things.  Baking and reading always seem to find their way into my Saturdays (mixed in with baby wrangling, of course :)).

Here's what I'm baking:
I recently went on a crazy hunt for the best chocolate chip cookie recipe.  I've posted about this before, but now I have a little more to say.  I don't think that it's possible to find the best chocolate chip cookie recipe.  There are so many different kinds, and, depending on what you want, there isn't one that scratches every itch.  So, here's my roundup of some of the best...

...soft baked chocolate chip cookies.  These are made soft by the addition of cornstarch.  Genius!

...classic Toll House chocolate chip cookies.  You can't knock a classic.

...the Neiman Marcus $250 chocolate chip cookie.  This is my new go to, but I changed the temp to 350, and I only bake for 10-12 minutes.  At the lower recommended temperature and recommended time they are too crunchy for my taste.  These have a rich flavor and a nice combo of crunchy and soft, without being too cakey.  Delish!

...buttery, fudge-like cookies.  These melt in your mouth!

Here's what I'm reading:
I'm sure you've heard about The Giver now playing in theaters.  If I was a bit younger, I probably would have read this in school, but, not one to be left out, I recently read it.  Loved the story, and I can't wait to see the movie.  It's part of a quartet of stories by Lois Lowry.  I'm almost finished with all of them, and that's saying a lot considering that I really value my downtime.

Hope your weekend is filled with tasty treats and good books! 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Mind Your Manners

It often seems to be the concensis that dressing well is only for people who are "in to fashion". I think that is not true. Maybe that's why I enjoy this quote. I like the broader reason it gives for dressing well. 

I like it as an inspiration to be respectful of others through thoughtful dressing. While tees and jeans are totally appropriate in many situations, it's important to remember that sometimes they are not. 

p.s. Like most things, the quote is best taken in moderation. I give myself a free pass when sick, pregnant, and anytime before 8am.