Sunday, August 31, 2008

Daring Bakers - August ~ Éclairs

This months challenge was selected by Meeta K of and Tony Tahhan of

I had made cream puffs with my Grandma when I was a little girl so I had kind of an idea of what I was doing. It is a very easy dough to make. I will be keeping that recipe but I am not sure if I will make the chocolate cream again. It seemed runny to me. I got about 28 éclairs. Half were filled with chocolate cream and half were filled with Bavarian cream. YUM!

Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• ½ cup (125g) whole milk
• ½ cup (125g) water
• 1 stick (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
• ¼ teaspoon sugar
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
• 5 large eggs, at room temperature

1) In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the

2) Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium
and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very
quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You
need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough
will be very soft and smooth.

3) Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your
handmixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand.

Add the eggs one at a time,
beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough.
You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do
not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time you
have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it
should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.

4) The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.

1) Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately.

2) You can pipe the dough and the freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined baking
sheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the
piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.

Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

Cream Puff Dough fresh and still warm

1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Divide the oven into thirds by
positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with
waxed or parchment paper.

2) Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough.
Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 41/2 inches (about 11 cm) chubby fingers.
Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff.
The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.

3) Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip the
handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the
oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue
baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking
time should be approximately 20 minutes.

1) The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.

Assembling the éclairs:

• Chocolate glaze (see below for recipe)
• Chocolate pastry cream (see below for recipe)

1) Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside the
bottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.

2) The glaze should be barely warm to the touch (between 95 – 104 degrees F or 35 – 40
degrees C, as measured on an instant read thermometer). Spread the glaze over the tops of
the éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the
bottoms with the pastry cream.

3) Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottoms
with enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry cream
and wriggle gently to settle them.

1) If you have chilled your chocolate glaze, reheat by placing it in a bowl over simmering water,
stirring it gently with a wooden spoon. Do not stir too vigorously as you do not want to create

2) The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.

Chocolate Pastry Cream
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé

• 2 cups (500g) whole milk
• 4 large egg yolks
• 6 tbsp (75g) sugar
• 3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
• 7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Velrhona Guanaja, melted
• 2½ tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1) In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy‐bottomed saucepan.

2) Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture.Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.

3) Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat).Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.

4) Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth.

5) Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.


1) The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

2) In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.

3) Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.

Chocolate Glaze
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 1 cup or 300g)

• 1/3 cup (80g) heavy cream
• 3½ oz (100g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 4 tsp (20 g) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
• 7 tbsp (110 g) Chocolate Sauce (recipe below), warm or at room temperature

1)In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.

2) Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.

1) If the chocolate glaze is too cool (i.e. not liquid enough) you may heat it briefly in the microwave or over a double boiler. A double boiler is basically a bowl sitting over (not touching) simmering water.

2) It is best to glaze the eclairs after the glaze is made, but if you are pressed for time, you can make the glaze a couple days ahead of time, store it in the fridge and bring it up to the proper temperature (95 to 104 F) when ready to glaze.

Chocolate Sauce
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 1½ cups or 525 g)

• 4½ oz (130 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 1 cup (250 g) water
• ½ cup (125 g) crème fraîche, or heavy cream
• 1/3 cup (70 g) sugar

1) Place all the ingredients into a heavy‐bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly. Then reduce the heat to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.
2) It may take 10‐15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon.

1) You can make this sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for two weeks. Reheat the sauce in a microwave oven or a double boiler before using.

2) This sauce is also great for cakes, ice-cream and tarts.

The final product ~

I will definitely make these again.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

My Kitchen, My World - England

I had a really nice entry I wanted to type up for this week but I broke my freaking arm!! I was vacuuming our stairs today and managed to fall down them backwards bringing the vacuum with me. OMG. I am in so much pain. This royally sucks! I have a bunch of baking to get done tomorrow for our Labor Day party. Sean has said he will be my baking assistant tomorrow. I am SO lucky to have him!

This week Megan of My Baking Adventures picked England for our country. I knew immediately what I wanted to make. Curry! I love pub curry. The couple of times I have been to England and when I went to Ireland I lived on pub curry. Served with rice or chips I didn't care as long as I had a good pint to go with it.

We hit our local farm to pick up the veggies. We bought broccoli, fresh picked baby carrots, onion, and some goegeous purple cauliflower. Agnes fell in love with the cauliflower. Since she can eat a little bit of spicy I steamed some cauliflower separately for her. She ate almost a cup of it!! I think we have a new favorite veggie at Casa Dargen.

This most likely not the correct way to make pub curry but this is how I do it. :)

First - poach the chicken. When it is cooked I chop it up.

Second - throw all the chopped up veggies into water and boil until just tender.

Third - drop in the curry mix.I used my favorite curry mix by S & B. This stuff is the bomb. But as you can tell I don't follow the instructions at all.

Let the curry melt into the water. When it is all mixed in add the chicken. Let it simmer for about an hour. The longer it cooks the better the flavor. This stuff is SO good the next day.

Serve in a bowl with rice or chips.

I went with chips this time and a Bridgeport Ropewalk amber beer.

I was just like being at the pub except no ciggie smoke and no room at the bar!!

***With the broken arm and the pain killers I am not responsible for any grammatical errors.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

My Kitchen, My World - Jamaica

This week Laura of One Happy Hubbard picked the lovely country of Jamaica for our My Kitchen, My World weekly menu. I was so excited about cooking a Jamaican menu this week but things just didn't go as planned. Things have been crazy here at Casa Dargen so I had to improvise for a Jamaican dinner tonight.

I made a very simple Jerk Chicken salad. We hit up our local farm to pick up the lettuce, red onion, and mango. I sprinkled the chicken breast with a bit of veggie oil and then rubbed them down with jerk seasonings. After grilling the chicken breasts I chopped them up and tossed them with fresh lettuce, mangos, and some diced red onion. I gave the salad a little squirt of lime juice and served it with a balsamic vinaigrette.

What a simple, delicious, and refreshing meal for a warm summer night. Mmm...

Friday, August 15, 2008

My Kitchen, My World ~ United States of America

This week for the My Kitchen, My World challenge we are celebrating the Olympics by choosing the country where we are from. Since I am a proud American I decided to make what I think is the All-American meal.

I don't think it gets any more American than grilled cheeseburgers, potato salad, slow-cooked beans, fresh squeezed lemonade, and lemon bars for dessert.

The Hamburgers ~ made with local beef, topped with a local bacon, a couple slices of Tillamook Cheddar, and served on a locally made potato bread bun. Delish!

Ruby Kaye's Baked Beans - Ruby Kaye is my mom!

1 pound navy or pea beans
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1. Discard any discolored beans. In a large bowl, combine the beans with plenty of cold water and soak overnight for 6 to 8 hours.

2. Drain the beans. In a large pot, combine the beans and enough water to cover them by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to simmer, and cook for 45 minutes or until they are just tender (it may take longer if the beans are old or the soaking time was short). Drain the beans and set aside the cooking liquid.

3. Set the oven at 325 degrees. In a bean pot or deep casserole with a lid, combine the beans, onion, mustard, dark and light brown sugars, molasses, and salt. Add enough of the cooking liquid to just cover the beans. Stir to blend them.

4. Bring the liquid to a boil on top of the stove, then transfer to the oven and bake for 2 hours, checking every 30 minutes to make sure the beans don't dry. Add more cooking liquid if necessary.

5. When the beans are tender, uncover the pot and cook for 20 to 30 minutes more to make a slightly crusty top.

6. My mom makes hers in a crockpot. I do the same thing. It is a lot easier.

Simple Potato Salad -


2 pounds small red potatoes, scrubbed
3 to 4 eggs, hard-cooked and diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1/2 cup diced red onion
4 green onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons diced dill pickle
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon tarragon vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh dill
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper


Cut the potatoes into small, bite-size chunks and place in a medium saucepan. Cover with water and boil for about 10 to 12 minutes, until just tender. Pour off water, set the pan in a sink or larger pan of cold water to cool the potatoes quickly.
In a large bowl, combine the potatoes with eggs, celery, red onion, green onions, and diced dill pickle. In another bowl, combine the sour cream, mayonnaise, vinegar, and Dijon mustard. Add to the potatoes and stir gently to combine. Fold in the dill and add salt and pepper to taste.

My Agave Nectar Lemonade ~

4 lemons
Light Agave Nectar
1 1/2 quarts water

Juice lemons. Put fresh lemon juice in pitcher. Add water (you may need to add more or less depending on how much juice you have). Sweeten with Agave Nectar to taste. Serve over ice or chill.

It is extra tasty with a couple dashes of vodka. :)

Agave Nectar is one of my most favorite foods on the planet. I almost like it better than honey.

Pucker You Up Lemon bars ~


1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups white sugar
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 lemons, juiced

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. In a medium bowl, blend together softened butter, 2 cups flour and 1/2 cup sugar. Press into the bottom of an ungreased 9x13 inch pan.
3. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until firm and golden. In another bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/12 cups sugar and 1/4 cup flour. Whisk in the eggs and lemon juice. Pour over the baked crust. At this time I top mine with riwwel.**
4. Bake for an additional 20 minutes in the preheated oven. The bars will firm up as they cool.

**Riwwel is a Germans from Russia crumb topping that is used for cakes, pastries, and even some soups! I am very proud of my Germans from Russia heritage (I am 1/2 Irish too) and love to cook the recieps my Grandma has passed down to me. I look forward to sharing them with Agnes.

Riwwel (Crumb Topping) Recipe:

In a bowl, mix 1 c. sugar and 2 c. flour. Add 1/2 c. melted butter and stir with a fork until crumbly. For a crunchy topping, mix 2 tsp. water into the crumb mixture.

It's a good thing we don't eat like this often or I would be as big as a house. The giant burger in the photo was Sean's. Agnes and I had smaller versions. :)

I can't wait until next weeks challenge. I am still trying to figure out what to make!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

"Rocky Mountain High" ~ John Denver

We went back to Denver this weekend for Sean's family reunion. It was nice seeing everyone but it was a hectic, fast paced weekend.

We flew in Friday morning, went out to lunch with Sean's mom, went to happy hour with friends, got back to the hotel at midnight.

Saturday- we got up early drove 2.5 hours to Lily Lake for a reunion picnic, drove home, got ready, drove to a reunion dinner, got back to the hotel around 11 pm.

Sunday- Agnes and I got up early and went to my moms house. I wanted to be able to spend the whole day with my Grandma. I miss her so much! While we were sitting in my moms backyard visiting with my family I was attacked and stung by a wasp!! OMG! It hurt so bad when it stung me. I had no idea it would hurt that bad. My left hand is still totally swollen and black & blue. Will the throbbing ever end? LOL After my exciting day at Casa Ruby we met Sean and went to the last family get together. We got back to the hotel around 8 and all 3 of us crashed.

Monday - Checked out of the hotel, went by our old house to see all the home improvements that have been done (It looks okay, but it sure is small. I don't remember it being so small), went to El Tejado for lunch so I could get my green chile fix, went to the new Tattered Cover bookstore, drove around Denver, went to the airport, and finally got home around 11. Whew! What a weekend.

Here is Agnes at the airport. She was insistent that she be allowed to wear her pirate outfit. Who am I to say no? She was a dream on both flights. She is a born traveler.

Miss Agnes looking adorable at Lily Lake.

The Family on the dock at Lily Lake. I love this picture! It was such a gorgeous day. I am thinking of making this into an 8 x 10 to hang in our hallway.

My Grandma does not allow people to take pictures of her. Ever. I think it has something to do with cameras stealing your soul or something. Anyhoo, she was excited to have her picture taken with Agnes and me. Agnes and I haven't had our picture taken with my Grandma since Agnes was 2 weeks old. I love my Grandma so much. She absolutely rocks!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

My Kitchen, My World ~ Mexico

I was so excited when I found out Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies chose Mexico as our culinary adventure for My Kitchen, My World. I love Mexican food. It is my favorite food on the face of planet. I could eat it every single day. There is something so wonderful about the cuisine of Mexico. From the simple taco to the complexity and depth of a Oaxacan Molé.

I was torn on what to make. Since moving to the Pacific Northwest from Colorado I have not been able to find good, authentic Mexican food. It makes me so sad. I have been craving a bowl of green chile. All I want is a bowl of freakin' green chile!! I thought I could make green chile but seemed boring and too easy. Then I thought I would make my mole recipe that can take up to 2 days to complete. But decided I wanted to make something I had never made before. I decided on tamales.

Rick Bayless is a personal hero of mine. I would love to travel to all the small towns he goes to in Mexico. When Agnes is old enough I plan on taking her on a Mexican culinary adventure based on his and Diane Kennedy's writings. Anyhoo, his recipes have always worked perfectly for me so I thought I would use his Green Chile Chicken Tamale recipe.

I had never made tamales by myself. I've been in the same room as someone making tamales but I wasn't much help. I just wanted them to hurry up and finish so I could eat them. LOL I wanted to complete this task all by myself. I was surprised to learn that tamales are a time consuming task but an easy one. Let me tell you it is worth the time.

I made the batter and the filling the night before. I think this is absolutely necessary task. It helped make my tamale day go quickly.

Tamales de Pollo con Chile Verde - Green Chile Chicken Tamales ~ Rick Bayless

1 8-ounce package dried cornhusks
Preparing the cornhusks. Cover the husks with very hot water, weight with a plate to keep them submerged, and let stand for a couple of hours until the husks are pliable.
For forming the tamales, separate out 24 of the largest and most pliable husks—ones that are at least 6 inches across on the wider end and 6 or 7 inches long. If you can’t find enough good ones, overlap some of the large ones to give wide, sturdy surfaces to spread the batter on. Pat the chosen husks dry with a towel.

For the filling:

1 pound (10 to 12 medium) tomatillos, husked and rinsed
fresh hot green chiles to taste (roughly 4 to 6 serranos or 2 to 3 jalapeños), stemmed
4 large garlic cloves, peeled
1½ tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
3 to 3½ cups chicken broth
4 cups (about 1 pound) coarsely shredded, cooked chicken, preferably grilled, roasted or rotisserie chicken
2/3 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
Preparing the filling. On a baking sheet, roast the tomatillos about 4 inches below a very hot broiler until soft (they’ll blacken in spots), about 5 minutes; flip them over and roast the other side. Cool and transfer to a food processor or blender, along with all the delicious juice that has run onto the baking sheet. Add the chiles and garlic and process to a smooth puree. Heat the oil in a medium-size saucepan over medium high. When quite hot, add the puree all at once and stir until noticeably thicker and darker, about 5 minutes. Add 2 cups of the broth and simmer over medium heat until thick enough to coat a spoon quite heavily, about 10 minutes. Taste and season highly with salt, usually about 2 teaspoons. Stir in the chicken and cilantro; cool completely.

For the batter:

10 ounces (1 1/3 cups) rich-tasting pork lard (or vegetable shortening if you wish), slightly softened but not at all runny
1½ teaspoons baking powder
2 pounds (4 cups) fresh coarse-ground corn masa for tamales OR 3 ½ cups dried masa harina for tamales mixed with 2¼ cups hot water. (I used the dried masa)

With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the lard or shortening with 2 teaspoons salt and the baking powder until light in texture, about 1 minute. Continue beating as you add the masa (fresh or reconstituted) in three additions. Reduce the speed to medium-low and add 1 cup of the remaining broth. Continue beating for another minute or so, until a ½-teaspoon dollop of the batter floats in a cup of cold water (if it floats you can be sure the tamales will be tender and light). Beat in enough of the remaining ½ cup of broth to give the mixture the consistency of soft (not runny) cake batter; it should hold its shape in a spoon. Taste the batter and season with additional salt if you think it needs some. For the lightest textured tamales, refrigerate the batter for an hour or so, then rebeat, adding a little more broth or water to bring the mixture to the soft consistency it had before.

Forming the tamales

Cut twenty-four 8- to 10-inch pieces of string or thin strips of cornhusks. One at a time, form the tamales: Lay out one of your chosen cornhusks with the tapering end toward you. Spread about ¼ cup of the batter into about a 4-inch square, leaving at least a 1 ½-inch border on the side toward you and a ¾-inch border along the other sides (with large husks, the borders will be much bigger).

Spoon about 1 ½ tablespoons of the filling down the center of the batter.

Pick up the two long sides of the cornhusk and bring them together (this will cause the batter to surround the filling). If the uncovered borders of the two long sides you’re holding are narrow, tuck one side under the other; if wide, roll both sides in the same direction around the tamal. (If the husk is small, you may feel more comfortable wrapping the tamal in a second husk.) Finally, fold up the empty 1 ½-inch section of the husk (to form a tightly closed “bottom” leaving the top open), and secure it in place by loosely tying one of the strings or strips of husk around the tamal.

As they’re made, stand the tamales on their folded bottoms in the prepared steamer. Don’t tie the tamales too tightly or pack them too closely in the steamer. They need room to expand.

Steaming 24 husk-wrapped tamales can be done in batches in a collapsible vegetable steamer set into a large, deep saucepan. To steam them all at once, you need something like the kettle-size tamal steamers used in Mexico or Asian stack steamers, or you can improvise by setting a wire rack on 4 coffee or custard cups in a large kettle. It is best to line the rack or upper part of the steamer with leftover cornhusks to protect the tamales from direct contact with the steam and to add more flavor. Make sure to leave tiny spaces between the husks so condensing steam can drain off.

Steaming and serving the tamales. When all the tamales are in the steamer, cover them with a layer of leftover cornhusks; if your husk-wrapped tamales don’t take up the entire steamer, fill in the open spaces with loosely wadded aluminum foil (to keep the tamales from falling over). Set the lid in place and steam over a constant medium heat for about 1 ¼ hours. Watch carefully that all the water doesn’t boil away and, to keep the steam steady, pour boiling water into the pot when more is necessary. Tamales are done when the husk peels away from the masa easily. Let tamales stand in the steamer off the heat for a few minutes to firm up. For the best textured tamales, let them cool completely, then re-steam about 15 minutes to heat through.

The Finished Tamales ~ Fresh out of the steamer ~

I served them with Crème Mexicana and a few bits of torn cilantro. They turned out so delicious. I can’t wait to make them again. I have so many different things I want to fill them with. I think my next tamales will definitely be a sweet version made with strawberries.