Archive for August, 2008

Daring Bakers: Chocolate Eclairs

August 31, 2008

When I found out about this month’s Daring Bakers challenge I was EXTREMELY excited. This one was right up my alley! I have always loved Chocolate Eclairs so I was pumped to attempt to make them at home.

It didn’t go as smoothly as I would have liked, but in the end I felt good about what I had accomplished. The first issue I had was sinking pastries. I baked off my eclairs and they looked beautiful and puffy in the oven but pretty much as soon as I pulled them out they sunk and became flat. I have a couple theories as to why this happened. The first is that maybe my kitchen was too hot and/or humid and that caused the sinking. The second is that I may have made the eclairs too big. The recipe says I should have gotten 24 eclairs out of it but I only got 12. That’s almost double the size! Oops.

My only other gripes with this recipe are that it produced MOUNTAINS of dishes and requires you to use your stove constantly, which is not so great in the summer time. All in all, the result was delicous and highly impressive. I might even brave the mountain of dishes just so I can make them again sometime!

Thanks to Tony Tahhan and MeetaK for hosting this month and picking such an enticing recipe! To see how the other Daring Bakers fared click here.

I should also mention that I chose to photograph my two puffiest eclairs. The others were much more flat!

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

• Cream Puff Dough (see below for recipe), 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.

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.

Chocolate Pastry Cream
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by PierreHermé

• 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.


Our Anniversary

August 27, 2008

Last week on August 18th (yes I’m late) Alex and I celebrated our first anniversary of marriage. Time has just flown by and I still can’t believe it has been a year already! It has been hectic at times (moving three times in one year, adjusting to Army life, etc.) but I have loved every bit of it!

I had been thinking that I would have to celebrate our anniversary by myself because Alex thought he might have to stay out in the field so I was very pleasantly suprised when he was able to come home at 4:00pm that day! We started off by exchanging gifts. Alex gave me roses and a gift card for a massage which was HEAVENLY! I gave him a cigar humidor and a bottle of Gentleman’s Jack whiskey.

Then, we went out to dinner at a nice restaurant….well, nice compared to other choices where we live. Here’s a picture of us at the restaurant.

Then we went home and each ate a piece of our wedding cake that had been frozen for a year. It was suprisingly tasty, although it didn’t look so pretty anymore.



We also watched our wedding video and reminisced about what an amazing day it was. I wish I could get married again every single year (to Alex of course)! Here are some more photos from the big day one year ago.

All wedding day photos by Ashley K Photography.

Barefoot Bloggers: Panzanella

August 19, 2008

I’m late on posting for Barefoot Bloggers once again! Last Thursday was the posting date but that happened to fall on what was probably one of the hardest days of my life so far. I won’t go into details but last week was really rough. Luckily though, my wonderful husband and my parents are helping me get through this tough time and I’m feeling better everyday. I actually made this dish well in advance but completely forgot about posting it on the post date.

So now back to your regularly scheduled blogging! Melissa of Melissa’s Kitchen chose this month’s Barefoot Bloggers recipe which is Panzanella. Panzanella is basically a bread salad and the ingredients remind me a lot of gazpacho, except it is chunky and not a soup! I am a HUGE fan of gazpacho so I had always wanted to try panzanella and this was finally my chance!

Can I just say YUM!?! I really, really, REALLY enjoyed this dish. My husband was out in the field doing Army stuff last week when I made this so I was able to enjoy it as a nice, light summer dinner. The dressing is just delicious, too! I plan on using the dressing recipe for other salads as well. The only downside is that the leftovers are no good since the bread soaks up too much of the dressing and gets soggy. You will definitely want to serve this right away!

To check out the rest of the Barefoot Bloggers’ Panzanella go here. Thanks to Melissa for a great summer recipe choice!


Source: Ina Garten

3 Tbsp. good olive oil

1 small french bread, cut into 1 inch cubes (6 cups)

1 tsp. kosher salt

2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes

1 cucumber, unpeeled, seeded and sliced 1/2 inch thick

1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1 inch cubes

1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1 inch cubes

1/2 red onion, cut in 1/2 and thinly sliced

20 large basil leaves, coarsley chopped

3 Tbsp. capers, drained

For the vinaigrette:

1 tsp. finely minced garlic

1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard

3 Tbsp. Champagne vinegar

1/2 cup good olive oil

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large saute pan.  Add the bread and salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently for 10 minutes or until nicely browned.  Add more oil as needed.

For the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together.

In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and capers.  Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette.  Season liberally with salt and pepper.  Serve, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.

TV Night Menu

August 12, 2008

Photo from

Since moving to this new post, I have made friends with a great group of women who are all Army Wives like me. Our weekly tradition is to get together at someone’s house and watch the Lifetime TV show appropriately named “Army Wives”. Although, I think we can all admit that it’s really more about having time to gossip and vent about the lives we lead than it is about the TV show itself. Luckily most of us have DVR so we can stop the show when a “pause-worthy” topic comes up.

This week was my turn to host the Army Wives so I put together an easy snack food lineup.

TV Night Snack Menu

Drinks: Wine (red and white)

Snacks: Pesto Palmiers, Hot Artichoke Dip w/ crackers, and M&M and Nut MIx (peanuts, cashews, and M&M’s)

Desserts: Strawberry Tart and Brownies (provided by Angie…thanks!)

Hot Artichoke Dip

August 12, 2008

I refuse to post a picture of this dip for fear that it might make you NOT want to try it. It is, quite possibly, the least photogenic thing I ever make, but so worth the ugliness! This recipe is one that my mom pretty much always makes when she entertains and it has since become one of my go-to entertaining recipes. I have no idea where my mom originally got the recipe so I just call it “her” recipe.

The best thing about it is that it is oh so easy…three ingredients!! Unfortunately, two of those three ingredients are mayonnaise and cheese which makes it not exactly healthy. However, this most recent time I made it I used the new mayo made with olive oil which makes me feel better about eating it. 🙂

So if you need a quick, easy, crowd-pleasing dip for your next get-together give this dip a try! I think you’ll like it. I’d love to hear if any of you out there have a similar easy, go-to entertaining recipe. Leave a comment and let me know if you do!

Hot Artichoke Dip

Source: My Mom!

  • 1 cup of mayonnaise
  • 1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 can of artichokes in water, chopped into bite-size pieces

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl until well combined. Spread mix into a medium-sized, shallow baking dish (I use a glass pie pan). Bake for about 30 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown on the top. Serve hot with crackers (like Wheat Thins, Ritz, or Triscuits).

Pesto Palmiers

August 11, 2008

These little gems are my new favorite entertaining finger food! They’re super easy, have very few ingredients, and are perfect for entertaining since they don’t have to be served warm. My guests weren’t quite sure what they were just by looking at them but once they tasted them they had great things to say about them. I have a couple left over and I can’t stop eating them! They are really addicting! I can’t wait to make these again and maybe even experiment with some different filling ideas.

I just realized that I totally forgot the egg-brushing step! Woops! I don’t think it made that much of a difference though.

Pesto Palmiers

Source: As seen on Annie’s Eats, originally from Confections of a Foodie Bride


1 sheet puff pastry, thawed

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, optional

½-3/4 cup pesto

1 egg

1 tbsp. water


Preheat oven to 375°.

Lay puff pastry out onto parchment paper. Roll out into a 12×12” square. Lift up one side of the puff pastry, sprinkle grated Parmesan onto the parchment paper, and replace the puff pastry; repeat with the other side. Using a spatula, spread the pesto within ½ – inch of each side of the pastry. Using your spatula, make three indentations on the top edge of the dough at 3 inches, 6 inches and 9 inches to divide the sheet into quarters.

Fold the left and right edges of the puff pastry halfway to the center of the dough (to the closest quarter-mark indentation). Fold the sides to the middle again until they are almost touching. Fold the two halves together like a book.

Cut into half-inch slices and place onto parchment-lined baking sheet. Whisk the egg and water together and brush over the palmiers. Bake for 8 minutes, flip and bake for 6-8 more minutes. Palmiers are best the day of baking.

Strawberry Tart

August 11, 2008

First of all, I’m sorry for the terrible photos of this tart. It’s such a shame because it was really pretty to look at but by the time I got it put together it was night time so I couldn’t get any natural light. Despite the lackluster photos, this was really a great dessert. What’s not to like about a buttery crust, sweet cream filling, and fresh strawberries?! My only gripe with the tart was the crust was a little too crumbly and it didn’t hold together well. When I make this again (which I will), I will be sure to swap out the crust recipe for this one from my Blueberry Tart.

Strawberry Tart

Source: Everyday Food

Serves 8

* 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for handling dough
* 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
* 1/3 cup sugar
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1 bar (8 ounces) reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
* 1/4 cup sugar
* 1 1/2 to 2 pounds strawberries, hulled and halved
* 1/4 cup seedless red currant jelly (I used strawberry jam)


1. Make the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, blend flour, butter, 1/3 cup sugar, and salt until moist crumbs form (this may take up to 1 minute). Transfer dough to a 9-inch round tart pan with a removable bottom.
2. With floured fingers, press dough evenly into pan and up sides. Dip a dry-measuring cup in flour, and use it to press dough firmly into bottom and against sides of pan. Freeze crust until firm, 10 to 15 minutes.
3. Using a fork, prick crust all over. Bake until golden, 25 to 30 minutes, pressing down gently once or twice with a spoon during baking if crust puffs up. Cool completely in pan.
4. Make the filling: In a medium bowl, mix cream cheese and remaining 1/4 cup sugar until smooth; spread mixture evenly in bottom of baked crust (still in tart pan).
5. Starting from outside edge, arrange strawberry halves, stemmed side down, in tight concentric circles on cream cheese.
6. In a small saucepan, heat jelly on medium-low until liquefied. Gently brush strawberries with jelly; let set at least 20 minutes. Chill in pan at least 1 hour (and up to 6 hours); remove from pan just before serving.

Guacamole Chicken Sandwich

August 7, 2008

Yet another success from the May 2008 issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray. The real name for these sandwiches is “Go Green Chicken Sammies” but I just couldn’t bring myself to use that as my post title. It’s just too Rachael-ified. But as much as I can’t stand all her goofy recipe titles, I’ve got to admit the girl knows how to write a good dinner recipe. These were delicious, healthy, and perfect for summer. I loved the herb, oil, and lime juice marinade. My only suggestion to change it up a bit is to use your own Guacamole recipe and trust your gut. In the recipe it calls for 1 small red onion for the guacamole made with two avocados. In my opinion that would make it way way way too oniony (and I’m actually a big fan of onion). I would just use 1/4 of a small onion.

Go Green Chicken Sammies

Source: Everyday with Rachael Ray May 2008

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • Grated peel of 1 lime plus juice of 2 limes
  • 2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce
  • Salt and pepper
  • Four skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 4 deli slices pepper jack cheese
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small plum tomato, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 jalapeño chiles, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, grated or finely chopped
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 hamburger buns or crusty rolls, split and toasted
  • 1 head bibb lettuce or green leaf lettuce
  • Tortilla chips, for serving

In a shallow dish, combine the EVOO, cilantro, scallions, thyme, lime peel, half of the lime juice, and the hot sauce; season with salt and pepper. Add the chicken and let marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Pre-heat a grill or grill pan to medium-high. Grill the chicken until cooked through, 12 minutes. Just before the cooking time is up, top each breast with a slice of pepper jack cheese.

In a medium bowl, mash together the avocados, red onion, tomato, jalapeños, garlic, lemon juice and remaining lime juice; season with salt.

Top each bun bottom with lettuce, a chicken breast, a mound of guacamole and a bun top. Serve with the tortilla chips.

Lemon-Glazed Sugar Cookies

August 6, 2008

I’ve really got a thing for lemon. My absolute favorite salad dressing is just a squeeze of lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. It’s delicious on meat, in drinks, and most especially in desserts. Nothing beats the tartness of lemon paired with a sugary sweet dessert. That’s why when I saw these Almond Glazed Sugar Cookies on Your Homebased Mom (great blog by the way), I knew they were going to be transformed into Lemon Glazed Sugar Cookies. Unfortnately I flattened my cookies a bit more than I should have but other than that little glitch they were awesome!! This is definitely my go-to sugar cookie base from now on. In fact, I’m craving them right now as I’m writing this. I wish I had an excuse to make some more.

Lemon-Glazed Sugar Cookies

Adapted from Your Home Based Mom

Makes about 24 cookies

-1 cup butter, softened

-3/4 cup sugar

-1 tsp. lemon juice

-2 cups flour

-1/2 tsp. baking powder

-1/4 tsp salt

Mix butter, sugar, and lemon juice in a large bowl. Beat until creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Beat 1 to 2 more minutes. Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on cookie sheet and flatten balls to 1/4 inch thickness with the bottom of a buttered glass dipped in sugar. Bake at 400 degrees for 7 to 9 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool 1 minute. Move to a wire rack to let cool.


-2 cups powdered sugar

-5 tsp. lemon juice

-2 tsp. water or milk (or more as needed to thin it out)

Stir together all ingredients with a wire whisk until smooth and glossy. If needed, add more liquid to thin it out. Spread glaze over cooled cookies.

Buttery Red Snapper with Smashed Potatoes

August 5, 2008

We spent this past weekend at the beach in Galveston, Texas hanging out with my family. It was a great weekend and perfect weather. Our beach house neighbors asked us if any of us would like to take their freshly caught Gulf Red Snapper filets because they wouldn’t be able to take it on the plane home with them. Alex and I jumped on that right away! Free fresh fish…fine by me!!

I had dog eared this recipe from Everyday with Rachael Ray May 2008 magazine a while back and thought our new fresh red snapper would be the perfect way to make it. Last night I was feeling a little under the weather though so Alex took over the reins on this one and it turned out wonderfully! We both loved this preparation of the fish and the potatoes. The tomato-scallion butter is delicious too and would be great on chicken.

Buttery Halibut with Smashed Potatoes

Source: Everyday with Rachael Ray May 2008

Serves: 4  Prep: 15 min  Cook 20 min.

  • 6 Tbsp butter, 3 Tbsp softened
  • 1 sun-dried tomato packed in olive oil, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped scallion
  • 1 tsp finely chopped garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 lb small new potatoes
  • 1 Tbsp whole milk
  • Four 6- to 8-ounce halibut (or Red Snapper) fillets
  • 2 Tbsp flour

1. In a small bowl, combine the softened butter, sun-dried tomato, scallion and garlic; season with salt and pepper.

2. In a large saucepan, add the potatoes and enough salted water to cover. Cover and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, then smash the potatoes with 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon whole milk; season with salt pepper.

3. Season the fish with salt and pepper, then coat lightly with the flour. In a large nonstick skillet, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add the fish and cook, turning once, until golden and firm to the touch, 7 to 8 minutes total.

4. Transfer the fish to 4 serving plates and top with the tomato-scallion butter. Serve with the smashed potatoes.