Love and Confections: July 2010

July 30, 2010

Beautiful Blueberries & Jam

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This blog entry is a special treat with 2 Blueberry recipes!

While out in Texas, my two Aunts took me blueberry picking. I had never done this before - only strawberry picking - and was very excited. Even though the day was incredibly hot, and we traveled 2 hours to get the the "Blueberry Basket" - our hunting ground - the trip was well worth it! We each filled baskets of blueberries, all the while, thinking what we would create with our delicious finds.

The workers told us to pick in one specific section, and as usual, Aunt W has a mind of her own, and found us some great rows of blueberries further down the farm. Clusters of blueberries sprang out from the bushes, but we also had to reach far into the bushes to get some of our loot.

The berries were all sizes and colors, from pale green and reddish-purple to the ripe blueish-purple berries. We ate as we picked - which was deliciously fun - and chatted about what we would bake - after all, they had a pastry chef under their roofs for a week. The rows of blueberry plants seemed like they never ended. The warm sun beat down on us, as we sweat in the 95+ degree weather. I can't honestly tell you how many insects we encountered - my sister would not have like it. Our baskets quickly became full and we finished just before the hottest part of the day - yes, it got even hotter!

I have to admit that I was not a fan of blueberries before this trip. Yes, I have had blueberry muffins and blueberry pancakes before, but never really just ate blueberries. These blueberries tasted different, very different from the ones we usually get in the store. They were sweeter and juicier. I probably won't eat blueberries from the store, but give me these any day - I even had a bowl of just blueberries, for breakfast one morning in Texas, along with an egg sandwich.


Muffin Batter Ingredients:
- 315 grams All Purpose Flour
- 60 grams Sugar
- 60 grams Light Brown Sugar
- 1 tablespoon Baking Powder
- 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
- 1/4 teaspoon Salt
- 2 large Eggs
- 75 grams Unsalted Butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 8 fluid ounces Buttermilk
- 2 cups Blueberries

Crumb-Topping Ingredients:
- 2 & 1/2 tablespoons All Purpose Flour
- 2 tablespoons Sugar
- 2 tablespoons Light Brown Sugar, packed
- 1/2 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons Unsalted Butter, cold

Crumb-Top Blueberry Muffin Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375F and prepare a muffin tin.
2. To make the topping, in a small bowl, stir together the Flour, Sugars and Cinnamon. Cut the butter into pieces and using a pastry blender, cut it into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
3. To make the muffins, stir together the Flour, Sugars, Baking Powder, Baking Soda and salt in a bowl.
4. In another bowl, whisk together the Eggs, melted Butter, Vanilla Extract and Buttermilk.
5. Stir the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients just until combined. The batter should be lumpy. Fold the blueberries into the batter just until evenly distributed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
6. Spoon the batter into each muffin cup, filling it level with the rim of the cup. Sprinkle each muffin with about 1/2 tablespoon crumb topping
7. Bake until golden, dry and springy to the touch, 20-2 minutes. Serve warm.

I have never made jam and was extremely excited - I love learning new things. Our fresh blueberries were perfect for our jam adventure.

from Certo

Blueberry Jam ingredients:
- 1 & 1/2 quart fresh Blueberries, crushed to equal 4 & 1/2 cups
- 2 tablespoons Lemon Juice
- 7 cups Sugar
- 2 pouches Certo Fruit Pectin
- 1 teaspoon Butter
- 12 -8 ounce- Jars or 20 -4 ounce- Jars with lids, sterilized

Blueberry Jam Directions:

1. Prepare Jam Jars by boiling them for 10 minutes
2. Crush Blueberries in large pan on stove.
3. Stir Sugar into Blueberries and mix well.
4. Add Butter to Blueberries and bring to a boil for 5 minutes over high heat while stirring constantly
5. Pour 2 Certo Fruit Pectin pouches into the Blueberries and continue to boil for 1 minute while stirring constantly.
6. Remove from heat and skim off foam.
8. Turn jars upside down for 5 minutes, then turn upright. Let set for 1 hour. (Jars are sealed when "pop-top" center of lid is pushed completely down)
9. Refrigerate once opened.

July 18, 2010

A Taste of Summer - Cherry Clafoutis

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One of the best summer fruits are cherries! I remember sitting on the steps of our pool, as a kid, with a bowl full of cherries on the tile deck, and a bowl full of cherry pits right next to it. The sweet, and sometimes tart, fruit was always a welcomed treat. That was the life - a lazy summer day in the pool, a bowl full of cherries and lots of sunshine!

Unfortunately, when I recently purchased my cherries, they were not as good as I had hoped - and only discovered this at home. I had to use them rather quickly and decided to create a dish I had been thinking about for quite some time. I have never made a clafoutis and have always wanted to try one - it seemed so simple.

Clafoutis, or sometimes spelled Clafouti, is a baked French dessert with black cherries arranged in a buttered dish and covered with a thick, flan-like batter, dusted with powdered sugar and served warm. Clafoutis comes from the Limousin region of France. Black cherries are the traditional ingredient, but other variations include: red cherries, plums, peaches, pears, apples and blackberries - when other types of fruit are used instead of cherries, the dish is called a Flaugnarde.

The traditional Limousin Clafoutis contains the pits of the cherries. Some bakers say, "the pits release a wonderful flavor when the dish is cooked. If the pits are removed prior to baking, the Clafoutis will be milder in flavor." I prefer to pit my cherries before baking, just in case. Many people opt for a cherry pitter, but I just did it by hand - with latex gloves on, of course - cherry-stained fingertips are not attractive.

Cherry Clafoutis
adapted from Joy of Baking

Cherry Clafoutis Ingredients:
- 65 grams All-Purpose Flour
- 1/4 teaspoon Salt
- 2 large Eggs
- 25 grams granulated Sugar
- 180 milliliters Milk
- 1/2 teaspoon pure Vanilla Extract
- 1 pound or 340-454 grams sweet Cherries, pitted
- 13 grams unsalted Butter
- 25 grams granulated Sugar
- Butter or Non-stick Cooking Spray
- Confectioner's Sugar for dusting

Cherry Clafoutis Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 425F and place the rack in the center of the oven.
2. Prepare baking dish(es) by coating the bottom and sides with either Butter or Non-stick Cooking Spray
3. Wash the Cherries, remove the stems and pits
4. In your food processor or blender, place the Flour, Salt, Eggs, first measure of Sugar, Milk and Vanilla Extract.
5. Process for about 45-60 seconds, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Once the batter is completely smooth, let it rest while you prepare the fruit.
6. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.
7. When the butter is bubbling, add the pitted Cherries and cook until they have softened a bit and are coated with butter (2-3 minutes).
8. Sprinkle the Cherries with the second measure of Sugar and cook until the Sugar dissolves and turns into a syrup (1-2 minutes).
9. Evenly divide the Cherries into the baking dish(es).
10. Pour the batter over the Cherries and bake for 20 minutes, or until the Clafoutis is puffed, set and golden brown around the edges. Do not open the oven door until the end of the baking time or it may collapse.
11. Serve immediately with a dusting of Confectioner's Sugar.

Until next time,

July 12, 2010

Pâte à Choux

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Some of life's greatest pleasures are desserts and pastries. Whether you're a fan of cookies, cakes, pies, tarts, petit fours, pavlovas, etc., they are all delicious and appeal to everyone in their own way. My personal favorite are French Macaroons - but that's for another day.

Whenever I meet a new Pastry Chef, I try and ask them what their favorite dessert or pastry is. I think it is a great way of getting to know more about the chef and a little insight into their personality. Executive Pastry Chef Stephane Cheramy, at the JW Marriott/Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes likes Apple Almond Tarts. Executive Pastry Chef Steven Rujak, at the Hyatt Grand Cypress, likes Shortbread Cookies. Chef Erik Perez, from Boiron frozen Fruit Puree, likes tarts the best. These pastry chefs have been in the industry for years, create confectionary masterpieces daily, and still love these simple yet delicious pastries.

Cream Puffs are said to have originated in Renaissance France and Italy. Choux paste is different from other types of pastry because when baking, it uses the high moisture content to create steam to puff the pastry. When it rises, it produces a hollow center, which can have sweet or savory fillings. Pâte à Choux is a thick batter made from flour, milk, butter, and eggs. Choux paste is typically known for making profiteroles (cream puffs), croquembouches, eclairs, French crullers, beignets, and Gateau St. Honore. The shape resembles a cabbage, choux in French, hence the name Pâte à Choux.

I decided to make Cream Puffs today. They are relatively simple to make and extremely delicious! I filled my Cream Puffs alternating Pastry Cream and Chocolate Mousse. Both are suitable for Profiterole filling and easy to make. A Pastry Cream blog post will be coming soon, but for now, you can get the Chocolate Mousse recipe here. Enjoy!

Pâte à Choux Recipe:
from the Daring Baker's Challenge, May 2010

- 175 milliliters Water
- 85 grams Unsalted Butter
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon Sugar
- 125 grams All-Purpose Flour
- 4 large Eggs

For Egg Wash:
- 1 Egg and a pinch of Salt

Pâte à Choux Directions: - Pre-heat oven to 425◦F/220◦C degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
1. Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely.
2. Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.
3. Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.
4. Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny.
5. As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes.
6. It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.

Piping the Pâte à Choux Batter:
1. Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip (I piped directly from the bag opening without a tip). Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide.
2. Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top.
3. Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with pinch of salt).

Baking the Pâte à Choux:
1. Bake the choux at 425◦F/220◦C degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes.
2. Lower the temperature to 350◦F/180◦C degrees and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool. Can be stored in an airtight box overnight.

Until next time,
Love & Confections!