Category Archives: recipes

one/twenty six: croquembouche

Croquembouche

The Croquembouche is the first of 26 French recipes I’m endeavoring to make before my next birthday. Here you can find my complete list and each recipe I’ve completed so far.

I have to admit that I felt a tad bit silly tackling a croquembouche as my first 26 before 27 installation.    It is, after all, a tower of cream puffs.  I have never made pate a choux, or crème pâtissière. There were a thousand ways this could go wrong (like melting my hand off in boiling sugar) but somehow, everything went smoothly come December 24th. (Did I mention this was the dessert I was preparing for Christmas Eve?)

Croquembouche translates to “crunch in the mouth” and it is characterized by the crunchy caramel that adheres puff to puff and the threads that encircle the tower in a spindly sugar halo.

The first thing I’ll say about a croquembouche is that it is crazy beautiful, and a total conversation starter. However, with its awesomeness comes a certain level of fussiness when it comes to actually eating it. But don’t let that deter you–it was a blast to make (my husband even had fun!) and was far easier to create than I expected!

Here’s the run down on everything I used and everything I learned:

Supplies:

Besides your typical tools (mixing bowls, wooden spoon, etc.) you will also need a large baking sheet, parchment paper or a Silpat, a cake stand or other display, and a pastry bag. You’ll use a 1/2 inch tip to pipe 3/4 inch rounds of choux pastry, and a 1/4 inch tip to fill the puffs. If you’re uncomfortable with a pastry bag, a 1/2 inch cookie dropper works fantastically for forming uniform puffs, and a condiment bottle can be used to pipe the pastry cream. Optional supplies include an oven thermometer (crucial for my oven that runs anywhere from 25 to 50 degrees hot), and a candy thermometer to reference while making the caramel.

Recipes:

The first batch of puffs I made were far to eggy and not sweet at all. I decided to try out another recipe that used fewer eggs and more sugar, but still found the puffs too savory. For the third and fourth batches, I modified the recipe to up the sweetness.

Pate a Choux
Adapted from Martha Stewart
makes 24 puffs

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 6 eggs plus 1 egg white for wash

Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a saucepan, heat the butter, water, milk, sugar and salt over medium heat. After the butter melts, and just when the mixture starts to boil, remove from heat and add the flour. Mix until incorporated, and return to heat. With a wooden spoon, mix until the dough begins to form a ball and pull away from the sides of the saucepan. Allow the dough to cool until you can handle it with your fingers. Crack six eggs into a separate bowl and give them a mix. Add the equivalent of one egg to the dough and beat. The dough will separate a bit and get slimy, but eventually the egg will incorporate. Continue adding eggs, one at a time, incorporating fully before adding another. If you’re arm feels like it’s going to fall off, you’re doing it right!

After piping (or spooning, if you’re using a cookie dropper) the dough into 3/4 in rounds, mix together one egg white and one teaspoon of water. Smooth the pastry by dipping the back of a spoon into the egg white mixture and lightly coating the tops. Bake on the top rack for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 30 to 35 minutes, or until the puffs are a golden brown. At this point, turn off the oven and crack the door. After five minutes, open the oven completely and allow the puffs to continue to cool slowly. When the oven is mostly cool, remove the puffs and let them cool completely before filling.

For the pastry cream, I whipped up the Chocolate Pastry Cream from Joy the Baker and a vanilla version from The Kitchn. I followed Joy’s technique for both, though. Both were delicious.

Things I Learned:

1. Vary the Shape and Size of Puffs: Don’t fret if some of your puffs are a little oblong rather than round. While assembling the croquembouche, I found that the occasional ellipse was helpful in filling certain spaces. You will also need to have plenty of smaller puffs. Before filling and assembling, I sorted my puffs into large (for the bottom), medium (for the middle) and small (for the top). Unfortunately, I ran out of pastry cream and only got to fill about 1/4 of the smaller puffs. I thought I’d have enough puffs, so I went ahead and began assembling the croquembouche. Along with the misshapen puffs, tiny puffs would’ve also been handy to help fill gaps after the first level was created and the tower began to take shape. So, make sure you have enough pastry creme to fill all of your puffs before putting the croquembouche together, or fill about the same amount of medium and small puffs.

2. Oven Temperatures are Important: My first two batches kept deflating after removing them from the oven, or would be dreadfully crispy on the bottom and uncooked on top. I learned from this guy that the puffs need a super hot oven at first, and a cooling period. His recommendation for oven temps and times was spot on.

3. You’ll Need a Lot of Puffs: I had exactly 48 puffs, and I deemed about 6 of them unworthy. I got about 3/4 of the way up the cone (just one that I made from poster board) and was out! I had to bring the flat ones and funky shaped ones back in. This was when I learned that funky shapes can be helpful.  The short of it: 48 puffs, using approximately 3/4″ scoop/piping diameter, barely fills a cone that is 11″ tall.

4. A Croquembouche Has a Short Shelf Life: I assembled the croquembouche in about an hour, then photographed it, and then put in on display until dessert. By the time we cracked into it, the caramel had started to melt in the humidity. The time between completion and dessert was 5 hours, but I’m not sure when the sugar started to weep. I certainly would not wait beyond 5 hours, in moderate humidity, to dive in. 

5. Cleaning Up Hardened Caramel is…Hard: Luckily, my husband took on the task while I bustled around prepping the rest of the food for our Christmas Eve dinner. His system: add water to your pot and throw in any sticky utensils, and bring to a boil. Pour out the water and continue the process, melting and diluting the sugar with each round.

For Next Time:

Next time I make choux pastry I’m definitely going to try making it well in advance. I stored my puffs in an airtight container for about a day and a half, letting them get some air to dry out periodically. I would like to try freezing them for a longer period of time.

Croquembouche

Can you squeeze a little room into your New Year’s resolutions for one of these delicious pastries?!

–Cat

banana pear bread with salted caramel

Banana Pear Bread

The basis of this banana bread recipe comes from Marilyn, my-mother-in-law. She is one of those bakers who has eighty percent of her recipe memorized and just fills in the blanks as she goes. I don’t know how she gets away with it, but she does. Anyway, last week, I bought four bananas. Two for eating, and two for banana bread. Unfortunately, I forgot to communicate that two of them were destined for more than just peeling and eating, and all but one remained when I finally had time to bake.

After mentioning to my husband that he ate too many bananas, he kindly left the fourth one alone. But you know, you sort of need a couple of bananas for banana bread. I didn’t feel like waiting another few days for a banana to go bad, so I decided to put a pear that had gone past its prime to work. And since I’d already subbed banana for pear, I decided to go all out with brown butter and salted caramel. Eighty percent basic, twenty percent do-what-you-want, Marilyn style.

I swirled some of the caramel into the batter, but it must have been too runny because it didn’t stay in the middle.  Instead, it sizzled up to the top and out to the sides and made for a sweet and salty crust. Totally works! I will most certainly be whipping up another loaf to tote to Thanksgiving.

Banana Pear Bread

Banana Pear Bread with Salted Caramel

For the Caramel Sauce

1 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup heavy cream

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 teaspoons sea salt

Directions:

In a saucepan over medium low heat, mix together all of the ingredients. Stir the mixture as it begins to bubble, and allow the sugar to boil for about 7 minutes. Dip a spoon into the sauce and allow to cool over the pan to check its consistency. Sauce should be on the runnier side. When finished, remove from heat and allow to cool.

For the Bread

1/3 cup unsalted butter, browned

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

2/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup of mashed banana (about 1 ripe banana)

1 small pear, diced

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour and loaf pan.

Add butter to a cold saucepan. Turn heat on to medium–stir butter as it melts, foams, and browns. When the liquid has turned a golden brown, remove from heat and let cool.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Add in mashed banana and the brown butter. Stir.

Add the dry ingredients into the wet, a little bit at a time. Mix together until all of the flour is incorporated.

Pour half of the batter into the pan. Add a few dollops of caramel sauce and use a knife to swirled the caramel into the bread. Top with the remaining batter.

Bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Cover the bread with foil and bake for another 10 minutes.

Serve warm. With butter. Spoon some of the leftover caramel sauce on top and sprinkle on some more salt. Eat it all before anybody else knows you baked.

–Catherine

26 before 27

Le Relais Gascon

Another birthday is right around the corner and my heart is all aflutter as I ponder an updated yearly to-do list. (Check out my 25 before 26 list to see last year’s goals!)

The first item on the first draft of this year’s 26 before 27 list was “really, seriously try to master a sewing skill.” Sewing is one of those things I keep thinking I’ll enjoy. I want to sew an elaborate quilt or alter a vintage dress, but the fact is that I can barely sew a straight line–still! And when it comes down to it, I certainly don’t enjoy practicing the skills necessary to be successful at this art form.

I’ve since tossed the first draft and decided to come at my 26 before 27 list from a different angle. What if, this year, I stopped traveling down creative avenues I think I might enjoy eventually and instead, dedicated a whole entire year to something I know I enjoy doing everyday?

Mind. Blown.

If there is one thing in this world I love doing day in and day out, it’s cooking and baking. (I also love shopping equally that much but probably shouldn’t embark on 26-ways-to-end-up-declaring-bankruptcy-before-27!)

I have this strange motivation to master the art of carving a turkey. I’ve penciled my 18th attempt at French macarons into my calendar for next Sunday. I flip over the vibrant colors of fresh vegetables. I feel no stress in the kitchen and often spend an entire weekend in there. I also have a husband that is glad to eat anything and clean up any and all messes I inevitably create in the name of good food. It’s a win-win.

Because I love a good theme, I’ve decided to embark on 26 French recipes. Wes and I spent a couple of days in Paris two years ago, and it was by far my most favorite stop during our belated European honeymoon. Because pastries. And cheese. And wine. And pastries with chocolate. And baguette!

I want to make it all. I’ll start with the following 26:

Baguette

Boeuf Bourguignon

Charlotte

Confit de Canard

Chouquettes

Galette des rois

Coq Au Vin

Crème Brûlée

Croquembouche

Croque Madame

Croque Monsieur

Duck a l’Orange

Éclair

Gratin Dauphinois

Madeleines

Oeufs en Cocotte

Petits Fours

Pot-au-Feu

Quiche Lorraine

Saint Honoré

Soufflé

Soupe a l’Oignon

Tarte aux Fraises

Tarte flambée

Tartelette

*promptly renews gym membership*

…Bon appétit!

sundays no. 2

Sunday is here. I try to be particularly intentional about how I spend the laziest–yet somehow, the busiest–of weekdays. Items on the to-do list include a fall fashion photoshoot for Goodbye Bernadette, whipping up some healthy food to last through the week, and stretching every last minute in the day before school starts tomorrow.  In addition, I am…

…Juicing for the first time in a long time! My go-to basic juice is lots of cucumbers, green apples, and lemon juice. I find that if  I’m not in the habit of drinking fresh veggie juice on the regular, things with kale or bok choy or beet just freak my taste buds out too much. Here’s some interesting recipes to try.

…Practicing photography with a handful of new-to-me photography apps, including TimerCam, & Pic Tap Go. I’m so glad to have found an easy-to-use timer–much needed because today it will just be moi taking photos of moi! Pretty much any photo you see on Goodbye Bernadette is taken and edited exclusively on my phone, so I’m always looking for better and easier apps. Any suggestions?

…Relaxing. Or at least attempting to. It seems like there’s still so much I need to do to have a good fresh start to the school year, like cleaning out my car and getting all the laundry folded. But! I did get my inbox and mobile office spruced up, so a little R & R should still be had. Definitely reading the latest issue of this magazine, browsing this fun Instagram account,  and drinking copious amounts of coffee while obsessing over this mug. Also, mega-laughing, as usual, whilst reading Gemma Correll’s misfit inspired comics.

Oh! Also, check this t-shirt out. Is it just me or is the everyone’s motto when they get home from a long day?

sundays no. 1

Sunday is here. I try to be particularly intentional about how I spend the laziest–yet somehow, the busiest–of weekdays. Items on the to-do list include buying textbooks, deep cleaning the house, and thrifting something to create a small vanity in my bedroom. In addition, I am…

…wishing I was still in Colorado (above ^^) during these last few days of summer. So much adventure and beauty there. Although sometimes I forget that the Ozarks are beautiful (and outdoorsy) too!

…making this grapefruit “soda” from The Skinny Confidential. I bought far too many ruby reds last week. They were just too pretty to pass up.

…detoxing with this charcoal face mask from Bioré. It just goes so well with the pore strips!

…watching episode after episode of Luther. The BBC just knows what’s up.

…trying a new Barre workout. Have any of you taken a class before?

…sipping on the most delicious chai tea I’ve tasted yet, as recommended by my dear cousin Carrie.

…dreaming about trying this Peach and Cardamom Lemonade from my favorite online lady, Joy the Baker.

…baking my new go-to dinner: The Londoner’s Lemon and Garlic Chicken. So good, and so easy.

…listening to my current favorite podcast, The Lively Show. Jess Lively chats with successful bloggers about career, wellness, relationships, inspiriation–it’s a great one!

 

What are you up to today?

–Catherine

orange honey flaxcakes

This week, I decided to start working on my goal of trying a new food once a month. I made this goal because I often find myself eating the same things over and over again. A diverse diet=a healthy diet…plus I think all of us can use some inspiration when it comes to answering that pesky what’s for breakfast/lunch/dinner question. So, once a month I’m going to try to cook with a new type of fruit, veggie, (vegan) protein, or grain. Hopefully I’ll have some really good recipes to share with you. I’ll share my flops, too, and you should feel free to pick up where I leave off if you are inspired as such!

The first food I decided to cook with is flaxseed. Becca and I have been putting flaxseed in our oatmeal at breakfast, but I wanted to try something a little more involved. I woke up in the mood for pancakes this past Saturday, so I went to work with some of the ingredients I had in my pantry and came up with some rather tasty orange honey flaxcakes!

gather:
3/4 cup white flour
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
pinch of salt
the zest of two oranges (I used Cara Cara navels)
3/4 cup fresh orange juice (that’s about 2 medium sized oranges!)
1/4 cup water
the equivalent of 1/2 an egg from Bob’s Red Mill egg replacer
1/4 cup vegetable oil

honey and orange marmalade for drizzling/spreading (optional)

Mix the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients separately, then combine together. Incorporate completely without over mixing. You may need to thin the batter–I added an additional 1/4 cup of water to achieve a normal pancake batter consistency.

Lightly grease your griddle and let your pancakes sizzle!

Here’s some important things I noted:

1. My first two pancakes didn’t produce those tell-tale bubbles that indicate the flapjack is ready to flip. I just had to guesstimate.

2. However, my next two pancakes did in fact bubble away. I can only offer two explanations: either my griddle wasn’t as hot as it should have been for the first two, or the fact that I used more batter for the next two influenced the bubble phenomenon. I’m thinking it had more to do with the griddle temperature.

3. All of my pancakes stayed together–usually, I flip to early and smear batter all over the place. Even the pancakes that didn’t bubble were flipped late enough to stay together.

4. All of the cakes–large and small, bubbles or no bubbles–were a little mushy on the inside. Because of that I’m planning on reducing the amount of oil I use from a 1/4 cup to an 1/8 cup. I’d also like to try this recipe with whole wheat flour instead of white. I’m sure that will play with the moisture factor, too.

Do you have any suggestions? Have you ever baked/cooked with flaxseed?

xoxo, Catherine

cranberry & clementine tea

When the weather turns dreary, piping hot tea is my go-to for toasty warmth and comfort. I love all kinds of tea, especially flavored black teas. One of my favorites is St. Dalfour Golden Peach Tea, but I recently decided to try and flavor my own.
Since this wasn’t something I planned ahead of time, I made do with what was in the kitchen which happened to be cranberries and clementines! It turned out really delicious.

Here is what I did:

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil; then add 12 cranberries and the peel of two clementines. Boil until the cranberries start to split apart.

Next, strain your flavored water, and then pour over your tea. I used PG Tips Black Tea. Add some garnish for color and more flavor!

How yummy is that?

Enjoy!

xoxo, Becca