• Passion Fruit Napoleons

    Well well well, as you can see this week I really went for it, and baked a twist on one of my favorite bakery pastries. You know those GOOD Italian bakeries where all the pastries are lined up in rows upon rows of joy and they somehow get everything from eclairs to sfogliatelle just perfect? If I could live in one of those I would, and whenever I go, I’m faced with a choice between two things: the eclairs and the napoleons. Similar components, and yet so, so different, I have an almost impossible time deciding if it’s going to be an eclair day or a napoleon day.

    BUT! Today, for all of you, is a glorious napoleon day. And not just any napoleon day, PASSION FRUIT napoleon day. It’s been so cold and sad this week and what better way to cheer up than with the fresh, sunny, summery flavor of passion fruit curd? If you close your eyes, you can almost feel the beachy breeze, can’t you? Well, maybe not quite. But anyway, as if that wasn’t enough, this passion fruit curd is mixed with a generous helping of pastry cream, sandwiched between buttery, crisp layers of puff pastry, then topped with a silky, chocolate ganache glaze. I know, I’m crying just typing this. Petition to change all wedding cakes to passion fruit napoleon stacks, who’s with me??

    2 quick notes about this, I know that some people make their own puff pastry dough but I, however, did not. I am lazy and like to sleep late on Saturdays, which does not match with dough prep, so I am using the good old frozen, pre-made kind and I promise it’s good. If you feel like making your own, I admire you and your determination, best of luck. Also, I’m sure in a pinch you could buy pre-made passion fruit curd, but this recipe is pretty quick and easy, so 10/10 would recommend making your own.

    Okay, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here are 5 things to be happy about today:
    ONE. Soft pile rugs.
    TWO. Piping hot biscuits.
    THREE.
    A kettle on a wood burning stove.
    FOUR.
    Someone who makes you happy by loving you, being alive with you, filling up your life.
    FIVE. 
    A hazy metropolitan skyline growing out of the horizon.

    MAKES: 16 individual napoleons
    PREP TIME: 1 hour, 30 minutes
    BAKE TIME: ~20 minutes per tray

    PASTRY CREAM INGREDIENTS
    adapted from ZoeBakes

    4 cups whole milk
    1 cup white sugar, divided
    4 Tbsp unsalted butter
    ½ tsp salt
    2 tsp vanilla bean paste/ extract, or 1 vanilla bean (pod and scrapped beans)
    6 Tbsp cornstarch
    2 eggs
    6 egg yolks

    PASTRY CREAM STEPS

    ONE. Bring the milk, ½ cup sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt to a gentle boil in a saucepan on medium. Remove from heat.

    TWO. In a medium heat-safe bowl, whisk together the remaining ½ cup sugar and the cornstarch to remove any lumps. Add the eggs and egg yolks, and mix until smooth.

    THREE. Whisking constantly, carefully drizzle some of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture- this will bring the eggs and milk closer in temperature without cooking the eggs. Once the eggs are warm to the touch, transfer the entire egg mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the milk and return to a boil, stirring constantly. The mixture will thicken quickly, but continue to cook for an additional 2-3 minutes to stabilize it, this will set the custard and keep it from separating later.

    FOUR. Strain the custard through a sieve to catch any stray cooked egg, then transfer to a glass bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap to the custard’s surface to prevent a skin forming. Chill the custard for 15 minutes in the freezer, then place in the fridge to cool completely before using.

     

    PASSION FRUIT CURD INGREDIENTS

    8 egg yolks
    ½ cup passion fruit juice
    1 cup sugar
    Pinch of salt
    1¼ sticks (10 Tbsp) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons

    PASSION FRUIT CURD STEPS

    ONE. In a heavy-bottom saucepan, whisk together the egg yolks, passion fruit juice, and sugar until smooth. Cook on medium-high, stirring constantly and scraping the sides of the pot, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 8 to 10 minutes.

    TWO. Remove the pan from the heat and add the salt and the cold butter, one piece at a time, stirring until all is incorporated. Strain through a sieve into a medium-sized bowl, and just like with the pastry cream, press a sheet of plastic wrap to the surface to prevent a skin forming while cooling. Chill in the refrigerator until completely cooled and set, at least 1 hour.

    THREE. When both the curd and the pastry cream are cold, mix the fruit curd into the pastry cream until fully incorporated, then return to the fridge until you’re ready for assembly.

     

    NAPOLEON PASTRY INGREDIENTS

    2 packages frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed

    NAPOLEON PASTRY STEPS

    ONE. Preheat your oven to 425ºF. Prepare your baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper. Cut each sheet of puff pastry into 6 equal pieces (3 vertical cuts, then horizontal halfway through) and lay out on the prepared baking sheets evenly.

    TWO. Prick holes in each piece of pastry using a fork, then put a second sheet of parchment paper on top. Place another baking sheet of the same size (or a cooling rack) on top of the pastry to weigh it down. This will keep everything from puffing up too much and resulting in uneven heights. Bake until the strips are lightly golden, about 14 minutes. You’ll have to bake the pastry in batches to ensure even browning, one tray at a time.

    THREE. At this point, remove the top tray and parchment paper, and bake for an additional 4-6 minutes until fully golden. Allow the pastry to cool completely. Once the pastry is cool, you may want to slice each square in half, the second baking tray weighs the pastry down but it still puffs up slightly and may be too thick to stack whole. 

     

    NAPOLEON ASSEMBLY INGREDIENTS

     2/3 cup heavy cream
    5 oz. dark semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
    1 tsp corn syrup
    Fresh raspberries, for garnish

    NAPOLEON ASSEMBLY STEPS

    ONE. Bring the heavy cream to just barely a boil, then remove from heat. Place the chopped dark chocolate into a bowl and pour the hot heavy cream over it and allow the chocolate to melt. Whisk in the corn syrup and set aside to cool.

    TWO. To make each individual napoleon, we’ll be using 3 pieces of puff pastry, with 2 layers of pastry cream. If your puff pastry sizes aren’t all the same, feel free to trim them with a serrated knife to make them even and easier to stack. Start with a piece of puff pastry and carefully spread a layer of passion fruit pastry cream on top, leaving a half inch border on all sides.

     

    THREE. Top with a second puff pastry and repeat with more pastry cream, again leaving a half inch border on all edges. For the final piece, spread a thin layer of the chocolate glaze on top and carefully place on top of the pastry cream layer. Top with raspberries.

    FOUR. Repeat steps 2 and 3 for the remaining pastries, then chill in the fridge for at least an hour to set. Now go open the bakery you were always meant to!

    YUM! xoxoxoxD

  • Coconut Paris Brest

    Hello and happy Tuesday my blossoms! Today’s recipe sounds super fancy because it IS, but it’s also not super hard to make, which in my book is always a plus. What is a Paris Brest you ask? Aside from something that made all my siblings laugh every time I said it, a Paris Brest is a ring of choux pastry, the kind you would have in an eclair or a cream puff, cut in half and typically filled with praline cream and topped with a dusting of powdered sugar. When I served this to my family the other day, my Grandpa, being the world traveler that he is, wondered if this pastry got its name by being served on the train between the cities of Paris and Brest in France. Turns out he’s not that far off, because when I searched for the origin of this dessert, I found that it was commissioned by Pierre Giffard, a French journalist, to commemorate a bicycle race from Paris to Brest and then back to Paris. Who knew?

    So, recently, I came across this recipe from Zoe Bakes for a Raspberry Paris Brest and I was immediately interested. However, I had been using too much raspberry in my baking recently, so I decided that I would take the basic idea for this pastry and try something different. We had a lot of shredded coconut leftover from the holidays so suddenly it hit me: a Coconut pastry cream filled Paris Brest complete with toasted coconut. And wow was I happy I tried this because it is a DREAM. The pastry cream is made with cans of coconut milk rather than whole milk, which provided a delicate coconut flavor amplified by the toasted flakes that I sprinkled on top. While this is best consumed the same day that it’s been assembled, that won’t stop me from eating this until there is not a scrap left. Also a note, the dough recipe below will leave you with a lot leftover if you’re simply piping the three rings for your pate a choux. I got nervous and underestimated how much it would grow while baking, so I added more piped rings until I had used all the batter, and it produced a truly enormous ring. Like bigger than my head, could have maybe used it as a hoola hoop. This was not a problem for me because I have a big family and I love baked goods, but if you fear it will be too much, only pipe the original three rings and save the rest of the dough for some eclairs or even a second Paris Brest with a different flavor combo!

     

    Now that that’s settled, here are 5 things to be happy about today:
    ONE. The smell of fresh coffee and bacon waking you up on a Saturday morning.
    TWO. Getting an unexpected letter or message from someone you love.
    THREE. Grilled cheese and tomato soup.
    FOUR. Trying something new at a restaurant and discovering you love it.
    FIVE. When winter days start getting longer and the sun stays up past 5pm.

    Happy? Good. Let’s bake!

    Makes: 1 12-inch choux ring, or 1 8-inch ring with leftover dough
    Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
    Bake Time: 50 minutes

    Pâte à Choux Ingredients

    ½ cup whole milk
    ½ cup water
    1 stick (8 Tbs.) unsalted butter, cut small
    1 Tbs white sugar
    ½ tsp salt
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    4 large eggs, room temperature
    Egg wash; 1 egg + 1 Tbs water
    ¼ cup slivered almonds

    Pâte à Choux Steps

    ONE. To start, set up a large sheet pan with parchment paper, and trace an 8-inch circle on the opposite side of the paper. Flip the paper back over so that you can see the traced circle but no pencil lead will get on the pastry.

    TWO. In a large saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar, and salt to a simmer over medium heat. Once at a rapid simmer (not before!), add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon. Cook the mixture on low heat, stirring until the dough forms a smooth ball, about 4-5 minutes.

    THREE. Transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer and begin mixing. Add the eggs one at a time until the dough becomes smooth and sticky, and not too stiff so that the mixture can be piped and will rise nicely.

    FOUR. Set up a piping bag with a large round tip, then fill the bag with your dough. Pipe an even circle around the outside of the traced circle on your parchment paper, then pipe a second circle inside of the first. Pipe a third circle on top of the first two circles, in the seam between the two. Now, because I had so much dough left, I then added a third ring to the bottom layer, then a second to the middle, and one on the very top, but be warned, this makes a very wide Paris Brest (not that that’s a bad thing AT ALL). If you have a lot of dough left over but don’t want to make an enormous pastry, you could always make some eclairs as well! Just pipe the remaining batter into logs and bake.

    FIVE. Paint the ring of choux dough with egg wash, and sprinkle the almonds evenly on top. Bake the dough at 375ºF for 30 minutes, then, without opening the oven door, reduce the temperature to 350ºF ad bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until the top is evenly golden. Turn the oven off and allow the pastry to cool there for one hour.


    Coconut Pastry Cream Ingredients

    4 cups canned coconut milk (I used Goya)
    1 cup white sugar, divided
    4 Tbs unsalted butter
    ½ tsp salt
    2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste, or 1 whole vanilla bean, deseeded
    6 Tbs cornstarch
    2 eggs
    6 egg yolks

    Coconut Pastry Cream Steps

    ONE. Bring the coconut milk, ½ cup sugar, butter, salt, and vanilla to a light boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan on medium. Remove from heat.

    TWO. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch to get rid of any lumps. Add the eggs and egg yolks to this bowl and whisk until smooth and combined.

    THREE. Carefully and slowly drizzle some of the hot coconut milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to temper the eggs but not cook them. When the eggs are warm to the touch, pour them back into the saucepan with the milk and return to a boil. Stirring constantly, the mixture will get thick pretty quickly, but continue to cook for 2-3 minutes so that the custard will set and won’t separate.

    FOUR. Strain the pastry cream through a sieve into a large bowl to catch any stray cooked egg, then press a sheet of plastic wrap to the surface to prevent a skin forming. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes to cool the eggs, then keep in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use.


    Assembly Extras

    ½ cup coconut, toasted at 325ºF until golden
    Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

    Assembly Steps

    ONE. Using a flexible bread knife, slice the pastry ring in half long ways. Fit a piping bag with a large round tip and fill with the pastry cream. Pipe a generous layer of cream inside the bottom ring, then top with a generous sprinkling of toasted coconut. Repeat with another layer of pastry cream and coconut, then place the top ring back on top. Generously dust with the confectioners sugar and TADA!! Serve in slices and tell everyone you went to culinary school in Paris.

     

     

    YAY!! xoxoxoxoxD

  • Pear Clafoutis

    In honor of Queen Ina Garten’s new cookbook Cook Like A Pro, this weekend I pulled out a recipe from another classic, Barefoot In Paris, as it also makes a second appearance in this new cookbook. I’ve made a clafoutis before here, but fall temperatures call for cozy fall flavors, and a custardy, cinnamon-y, pear dessert seemed like the right move. For those who weren’t around last time, a clafoutis is a baked french dish that’s a bit like a cross between a dutch baby and a custard, traditionally made with dark cherries but so delicious with other sturdy fruits as well. It’s incredibly easy to make, requires one bowl and 15 minutes of prep, and can be done within the hour, so really there’s no excuse NOT to make it.

    Now let’s talk a little bit about cookbooks. Anyone who knows me knows that I have the most excessive collection of cookbooks. If I see one I like, I can’t stop myself, and suddenly I’m at the checkout counter handing over my card and leaving with another book under my arm. The thing is though, I would probably be nothing without them. I look over my collection of books from some of the people I look up to most and realize how much they’ve taught me, and how much they’ve inspired me to do better, be brave, and trust my instincts. It was countless episodes of Barefoot Contessa that I watched in high school that made me start to see cooking as something other than a chore. It was Ina Garten, who, back when all I was baking were Toll House chocolate chip cookies and some apple pie, taught me about flavors and to never settle for less than the best. Good vanilla is a lifestyle people!!! I love my cookbook collection and here’s to many more years of adding to the pile. But, for now, here are some of my favorites:

    1. The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, by Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen
    2. Molly on the Range, by Molly Yeh of My Name is Yeh
    3. The Fearless Baker, by Erin McDowell
    4. Foolproof, by Ina Garten
    5. Cooking For Jeffrey, by Ina Garten
    6. Genius Recipes, by Kristen Miglore of Food52
    7. Florentine, by Emiko Davies

     

    See? I wasn’t kidding. Now if only I could get to the books at the bottom…

     

    Go forth and start cooking, but before you do, here are 5 things to be happy about today!
    ONE. Halloween themed TV episodes.

    TWO. 
    Dinners that you start preparing in the morning and that cook all day, surrounding you and your house with comforting smells.

    THREE. 
    Crisp walks through the changing leaves.

    FOUR. Kraft mac and cheese.

    FIVE. Walking through a greenhouse when it’s cold out and feeling warm and refreshed.

    Makes: 8 servings
    Prep Time: 15 minutes
    Bake Time: 35 to 40 minutes

    Ingredients
    adapted from 
    Barefoot In Paris

    1 tablespoon butter, softened
    1/3 cup + 1 tbsp white sugar, separated
    ½ tsp cinnamon
    3 eggs, room temperature
    6 tbsp all purpose flour
    1½ cups heavy cream
    2 tsp vanilla extract
    1 tsp lemon zest
    ¼ tsp kosher salt
    2 to 3 ripe but fragrant Bartlett pears
    Confectioners’ sugar

    Steps

    ONE. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. In a small bowl, mix together the 1 tablespoon of sugar and the cinnamon. Using the tablespoon of softened butter, grease a 10 inch round baking dish entirely, and then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar so that it coats the bottom and sides completely, tapping out the excess.

    TWO. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the eggs and remaining granulated sugar for 3 minutes on medium speed until light and fluffy. Then, with the mixer on low, add the flour, heavy cream, vanilla, lemon zest, and salt. Mix until combined, then turn the mixer off and let the mixture sit for 10 minutes while you prepare the pears.

    THREE. Peel, halve, core, and slice your pears into thin slices, then fan them out in the bottom of your prepared dish as desired. Pour the batter on top of the pears and place the dish on a baking sheet to catch any spills and make it easier to transfer into the oven.

    FOUR. Bake the clafoutis for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top is golden. This dish can be served warm or room temperature, sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

    Happy Tuesday!!! xoxoxoxD